Thursday, October 09, 2008

Beijing School for the Blind

The Beijing School for the Blind dates back to the 19th century, back in the days where the colonial presence was strong.
Woman pointing to a large picture of proposed buildingsThe facilities are impressive, more or less brand new. The principal of the school, proudly showed off plans to expand the campus over the next few years, with high quality architectural site drawings that would have looked perfectly in place in Chicago.
people in a room with brightly colored toysOur team toured the school. Like many of the agencies we visited, China is also experiencing a significant increase in kids with multiple disabilities. So, in Hong Kong and in Beijing we saw sensory stimulation rooms for these children. These were quite familiar to folks like Frank Simpson of the Lavelle School in New York and Miki Jordan of the Junior Blind of America in Los Angeles.
Rami Rabby with cane in classroom of blind studentsWe visited the English language classroom. We enjoyed getting a chance to chat with a couple of the students who were impressively fluent.
Boy wearing multiple baseball caps, grinningWe were treated to a funny skit about Chinese tour guides for the Olympics.

Two soccer players
Jimmy Young with blind fold, moving the soccer ball
As we headed out to visit the vocational education building, we found Jimmy Young scrimmaging with some of the blind soccer players. This is a country which two weeks earlier had been hosting the Paralympics, and they were very proud. The other amazing thing was how clear the weather was in Beijing. It was gorgeous until the last day.

Vocational Education Building signThe vocational rehab building focuses on getting blind people job. And, the largest unit was on massage.
Massage trainees and massageeStudents and staff all get the chance to experience massages at the hands of the trainees.

After working our way across China, it finally got to be our final weekend, and we were able to troop off and visit the forbidden city and the Great Wall. What an experience! I'm looking forward to doing a real vacation here someday, and having a chance to see the real countryside rather than just the wealthy coastal cities.

Our visit gave me a lot of hope for people with disabilities in China, while recognizing that there are plenty of challenges ahead. But, the Chinese seem comfortable doing in ten years what took other countries thirty years, so much seems possible. In the middle of a transition from an immensely poor country to a developed country, there is so much going on!

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