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The sight of warmth

By He Qi | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-16 07:26

Niguang 226, a new bookstore operated by the Shanghai Xinhua Media, the Shanghai Disabled Persons' Federation and the local community, is a 37-square-meter space designed for visually impaired people. It offers more than 300 braille books, barrier-free movies and various merchandise made by people with physical challenges. GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY

"We hope to let the visually impaired feel the love and warmth of society through this bookshop," says Qiu, referring to the decision to open Niguang 226.

Upon entering the bookstore, a white wall on the left introduces the venue and features quotes from visually impaired celebrities, such as Helen Keller and Zhang Haidi, the chairwoman of the China Disabled Persons' Federation.

To ensure the safety of its visitors, Niguang 226 has no sharp corners and special lanes have been created to help the visually impaired find their way around the aisles.

In addition, the store has an accessible reading corner that is equipped with an electronic visual aid device that can magnify the characters in a book so that most amblyopic people can read the text. The device also has a mode that helps colorblind people to read.

Many of the barrier-free facilities in the bookstore were included following suggestions by Han Ying, honorary store manager and the founder of a barrier-free film and television culture development center. Her center has since its inception produced more than 300 barrier-free films and nearly 5 million words of narration.

A former teacher, Han lost her vision due to illness, but even this did not stop her from earning bachelor's degrees in Chinese and English. She is also well-known for her public welfare efforts in China.

"This store is much more than just about books. We want this to be a space where people can get to learn more about people with physical challenges," says Han.

Another design feature that Han had a hand in is the color and lighting scheme: the main color of the interiors is white, and the ceiling lights can also display different colors.

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"Visually impaired people do not want to live in a dark world," she says.

There are currently seven members working at the bookstore, including Han and her guide dog. The other five are two visually impaired and three able-bodied employees.

"Visually impaired employees have no problem sorting books and cleaning. In fact, some might even do these tasks better than able-bodied people because of their keen sense of touch," Han explains.

True to its nature of inclusivity, the store does not provide special care or training for its visually impaired employees. Han says it is important such individuals are treated just like able-bodied employees.

She also notes that the store has received many job applications which suggests that employment opportunities for the visually impaired are still limited in society.

"We should do more to provide more opportunities for them to gain meaningful employment," she adds.

According to one of the visually impaired store assistants, working in the bookstore has been a breeze because of the special design features.

"I hope that there will be more places like this bookstore that can bring warmth to more physically challenged friends out there," she says.

Contact the writer at heqi@chinadaily.com.cn

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