After rainstorm-triggered floods ravaged Central China's Henan province recently, a 150-second video circulating online raised public concerns about the hardships of disadvantaged groups facing natural disasters.
The video shows several methods and platforms designed for the hearing impaired to seek help in emergencies, such as websites for translating sign language online, voice-to-text software and short-message alarms.
The video was created by Du Yinling, a sign language instructor in Beijing. She said that hearing-impaired people, including herself, are more helpless than healthy people when facing the flood.
They cannot communicate with others through written words during such emergencies, and their cochlear implants and other hearing aids may be easily damaged by water, said Du. "They may miss out rescue operations due to their inability to speak or hear."
Last year, the 34-year-old uploaded a survival guide for the physically challenged group during the COVID-19 pandemic. This time, her video has gained greater response on social media, garnering more than 16 million views.
"We should not forget people with disabilities. They are facing more difficulties than us," a Weibo user named "Juno" commented. "No one should be left behind."
Zheng Yutong, a 19-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, shared the video on WeChat and called for more attention to barrier-free services for the disabled.
"When facing a sudden disaster, those who cannot see or hear might not receive warning information in time, those with intellectual or mental disabilities may not understand the meaning of warnings, and those with physical disabilities may not be able to evacuate timely," said Zheng.
China has 85 million disabled people, Zhang Haidi, chairperson of the China Disabled Persons' Federation, told a press conference in Beijing on Thursday.
Mobile applications have played a vital role in helping the disabled survive disasters. For example, "Voice of Hand," an application targeting the hearing-impaired, launched free assistance on July 21 for users affected by heavy rains.
The APP provides two types of services. One is "call on behalf," which can help them make real-time phone calls and send messages for help, and the other is an online translation service helping them to communicate with people who do not understand their sign language.
Meanwhile, community support has become the most trusted way of rescue for the disabled. Community workers and volunteers provide one-to-one and door-to-door services to those in need and set up WeChat talk groups to solve their daily problems.
Civil affairs departments across China have also promptly initiated rescue operations, replenished emergency supplies and provided financial assistance to disaster-hit areas.
Xin Kedong, president of the School of Disabilities Education at Gansu Open University, deems these changes reasonable. He believes that they indicate a sign of improvements in the country's social welfare for the disabled in recent years.
"With the gradual advancement of the construction of urban barrier-free facilities and barrier-free access to internet services, the emergency response for disabled people has become more exclusive, and the society is more inclusive for people with disabilities," Xin said.