Liu Daming frequents a bookstore beside the second ring road in east downtown Beijing, often spending all day in the establishment. What attracts him is not only its extensive collections but also the convenient accessibility facilities.
"There is no accessible restroom in my office building in Zhongguancun, but there is one next to the bookstore," Liu said.
The 27-year-old was diagnosed with the rare osteogenesis imperfecta at a very young age. After undergoing 11 operations, he survived but was left wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.
Nevertheless, overcoming countless difficulties along the way, he managed to study psychology in Britain before starting his own business in Beijing after graduation. What troubles him the most in his daily life is using the restroom. While in the bookstore, he feels "at home."
Shanyuan Book Chamber is a bookstore built according to barrier-free standards in the Galaxy Soho complex in Beijing.
The bookstore has a collection of works written by renowned disabled people from around the world, including Zhang Haidi, Shi Tiesheng and Helen Keller, to name a few. On the shelves, selected historical and cultural books, as well as children's illustrated books, can be found.
"Our bookstore is committed to spreading love and care to a wide range of people, and we hope everyone can have a delightful experience here," said Zhang Zhihao, manager of the bookstore.
Last month, Liu made a speech sharing his life experience and put his book Beyond Destiny on sale at the bookstore's opening ceremony.
Yesterday marked the annual "World Reading Day," and to celebrate the occasion, Zhang Danuo, who has supported the disabled in publishing books and guided Liu in writing, delivered a speech on "paying tribute to life" in the bookstore and shared his stories of caring for the vulnerable.
"In this age when electronic reading materials are popular, bookstores still have their significance and are even more indispensable to the disabled," said Zhang.
"For them, being able to go out is a kind of happiness, and it is even more joyful to be able to read and meet friends at such barrier-free bookstores."
The bookstore of 308sq m is fitted with barrier-free designs in every corner of its premises. All the bookshelves and tables are arc-shaped, and there are no thresholds or steps.
Luo Yan, a 65-year-old writer, said she finds the space between shelves in most bookstores is too narrow to allow her wheelchair to pass. However, in Shanyuan Book Chamber, she feels free to browse at her leisure. She is particularly fond of the wheelchair reading tables, which give enough space to fit her knees comfortably underneath.
The bookstore provides a variety of braille books covering science and technology, philosophy, employment and other genres.
At the end of the bookstore, there is a 19sq m mini cinema equipped with a speech-to-text device enabling the hearing-impaired to enjoy movies. The bookstore has over 300 specially dubbed films donated by the Communication University of China for the visually impaired.
"Even if there is only one person making an appointment to 'watch' a film, we turn it on for free," said the manager.
The barrier-free bookstore has gained support from the China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF) from site selection and design to decoration.
Zhang Jingzhi, founder of the bookstore, said she previously ran a bookstore for the disabled in 2019, but after having consulted Lyv Shiming, deputy president of the CDPF, she understood that "barrier-free" access is of utmost importance for the disabled.
"Previously, I only focused on the selection of books, but Lyv told me that the barrier-free hardware and services are equally important," Zhang said.
Given that the barrier-free culture is still in the initial stage of development in China, Lyv helped Zhang by offering specific suggestions.
"We hope Shanyuan Book Chamber can be a national model for barrier-free bookstores," Lyv said.
The bookstore holds activities for the disabled every month, which have attracted many people from outside the city.
They have also drawn a growing number of curious visitors. Many parents take their children to the bookstore to touch the braille.
"It's also the first time for many adult visitors to come into contact with braille. Children with an understanding of the barrier-free culture are likely to learn to be grateful and willing to give others a helping hand," Zhang added. - Xinhua/Asia News Network