Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Beijing Olympics guide makes insulting assumptions about disabled people

The Australian newspaper The Herald Sun reports that the Chinese volunteer guide for people helping with the Olympics and Paralympics has some insulting assumptions about people with disabilities.

"Disabled people can be unsocial, stubborn, controlling and defensive," the official Beijing Olympics guide says.

The Olympic manual for volunteers in Beijing adds that that physically disabled people are "often" mentally healthy. Volunteers are told not to call Paralympians or disabled spectators "crippled" or "lame," even if they are "just joking" because "disabled people can be defensive and have a strong sense of inferiority."

The guide says disabled people "show no differences in sensation, reaction, memorisation and thinking mechanism from other people, but they might have unusual personalities because of disfigurement and disability. For example, some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial, and introspective; they usually do not volunteer to contact people. They can be stubborn and controlling; they may be sensitive and struggle with trust issues. Sometimes they are overly protective of themselves, especially when they are called crippled or paralysed."

The guide does tell the volunteers to "show respect when you talk with them. Though life has handed many difficulties to them, disabled people are often independent and self-reliant."

Australian Olympic swimming champion of the 1960s, Dawn Fraser, says in the article that she wasn't surprised by the patronizing comments in the guide. She said she saw disabled athletes spat on in the streets of Beijing during university games there in the mid-1990s.