Beijing Olympic organizers apologize for booklet
Volunteer manual says physically disabled 'can be stubborn and controlling'
Organizers of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games have recalled a training manual for volunteers and issued an apology for inappropriate language used in the document to describe disabled people.
The 200-page booklet prepared for the estimated 70,000 volunteers who will work at the Olympic Games in August and some 30,000 volunteers at the Paralympic Games the following month includes awkward and stereotypical phrases used to describe Paralympic athletes and disabled spectators.
For the optically disabled, the manual advises volunteers to "try not to use the word 'blind' when you meet for the first time."
It also describes the physically disabled as having "unusual personalities because of disfigurement" and says they "can be stubborn and controlling."
"For example, some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial and introspective; they usually do not volunteer to contact people," the document says. "Sometimes they are overly protective of themselves, especially when they are called 'crippled' or 'paralyzed.'"
Volunteers are cautioned to "never stare at their disfigurement" and to not use words like "cripple or lame, even if you are just joking."
China has 'still a fair distance to come': Paralympian
The Beijing Olympic organizing committee was quick to apologize for its mistake and removed the manual's English version from its website. The committee is now working on rewriting the manual, it said Monday in a statement.
"We would like to express our deepest apologies to those organizations, athletes with disabilities and friends who were offended by our publication," the statement said.
Zhang Qiuping, director of Beijing's Paralympic Games, said last week it was a problem of "poor translation." However, the Chinese-language version contained many of the same stereotypes.
Rob Snoek, a three-time Paralympian who last competed in the Syndey Paralympic Games in 2000, said he isn't surprised by the insensitivity demonstrated in the document.
"I don't think those words would describe me or most people I know who have disabilities," Snoek told CBC News from his home in Bowmanville, Ont. "Their society has come a fair distance already, but I think it's clear that there is still a fair distance to come."
Canada is sending a team of 150 Paralympians to Beijing. The head of the organization overseeing the selection of that team said it was only in the last decade that China enshrined the rights of disabled people.
"It just shows you how recent their thinking has been in terms of increasing the protection and the rights of disabled peoples," said Brian MacPherson, the Canadian Paralympic Committee's chief operating officer.
But Josephine Chiu-Duke, who teaches Asian studies at the University of British Columbia, said China doesn't deserve a tongue lashing over this.
"This is a sort of misinformed sort of information they received, probably from some sort of old-fashioned textbook," she told CBC News.
With files from the Associated Press