《家外之家》征文8 ▏Daniel Mayers: Journey to accessibility in China

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《家外之家》征文8 ▏Daniel Mayers: Journey to accessibility in China


Name : Daniel Louis Mayers

姓名:Daniel Louis Mayers

Country of Origin : United Kingdom


Occupation : Student


Years in China : 2 years


How did your journey in China begin?


I moved to Xiamen to settle here with my girlfriend, (we met as she was studying in the UK), and began studying my undergraduate degree at Xiamen university.


What do you like most about your city and China as a whole?


After having grown up in London, Xiamen has enough of a metropolitan feel to be comfortable, whilst simultaneously offering a peaceful ‘countryside’ pace of life at which to enjoy the heavenly weather and majestic scenery. The list of conveniences of life in China is quite extensive, so it is hard to choose which one I appreciate most of all. I would have to say the reception from the Chinese people after being able to talk with them in their own native language is the greatest and most rewarding aspect of living in China, regardless of where you are, and has opened doors to unimaginable (and sometimes bizarre) adventures with some exceptional individuals.


Enjoying local cuisine with friends

What is your unique China story?


I spent one month as a volunteer in Xi’an. Half of the time I taught English in rural schools nearby, (in and around Weinan city), and the other half at Xing Xing Jia Yuan, a disability centre located in the heart of Xi’an.


My experience as a teacher felt rewarding. The children were so excited to see us, so energetic and playful, it was easy to be swept up by such high energy and the time really flew by. However, it was spending time at the disability centre which really left the biggest impression on me.


Not only were there a few other international volunteers helping at the disability centre, but also a few Xi’an locals would regularly come to lend a hand with cooking or sparing a few hours to help out, bringing snacks, toys and books to the centre. Everyone who came to the centre had nothing but compassion and warmth in their hearts.


I remember one time; a troupe of young teenagers came to visit the centre to help out for the afternoon. One of the children at the centre, who we affectionately called ‘Clappy Boy’, was unable to talk, so his communication was limited to body language only (subtle pushing, or smiling, especially clapping!) This afternoon in particular, he had been standing still until one of the girls gave him a small pack of biscuits to eat. Suddenly, he began his episode of happy bouncing and clapping, but also letting out a loud howl of excitement. The noise was loud and so sudden that the girl and some of the nearby teenagers were shocked and I guess a little afraid as they had not become used to his behaviour. I just explained to them it was his way of showing his gratitude, and instantly I could see the change in their eyes with the way they viewed him. Gone was their fear.


My best friend in London is physically disabled and uses a somewhat heavy electric wheelchair to get around (the chair and battery alone weigh 200kg!). Travelling with him around London sometimes had its difficulties, but almost everywhere was accessible. Naturally, during my time here I always have an eye contrasting European country’s accessibility and public attitudes with the situation in China.


Despite the real-life situation being less than desirable for anyone travelling around in a wheelchair, I was surprised to learn that China’s laws concerning rights for disabled citizens are superbly comprehensive and world class, owing in large part to the diligent efforts of former leader Deng Xiaoping’s son, Deng Pufang. After becoming paraplegic, he dedicated his efforts to improving the lives of those with disabilities, beginning with the founding of the China Welfare Fund for the Disabled in 1984.


After leaving Xi’an, I came to realise that in larger cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, there would be of course a much greater emphasis on rolling out accessibility changes for their citizens, Xiamen will inevitably be a little behind. So, as I am continuing with my studies in China, I am also looking for opportunities where I can add to the greater work that has already been laid down in Chinese law for disabled citizens. I hope I can be a little catalyst to get the ball rolling at a local level wherever I am within China, and provide whatever help I can to transform Deng Pufang’s dream of an inclusive society from paper to reality.


Those are big boots to fill, but thankfully, I still have two more years before graduating to figure out the details!


One of the children that Daniel interacted with in his time as a volunteer in Xi’an. (‘Clappy Boy’ is pictured in the background)

Some background on his hometown:


Bushey Park, local to where I grew up in London, has wild deer living in it. You can visit almost all year round for amazing photos (in West London’s suburbs).

我住在伦敦的布希公园(Bushey Park),那里有很多野鹿。不论你在哪个季节过来旅游,几乎都可以在伦敦西部郊区拍到惊艳的照片。

The majestic deer that live in Bushey Park

作者:Daniel Mayers 翻译:邓忠悦

If you would like to contribute your story, feel free to contact us.

Email: luz@mts-tech.com