Beijing Olympics “Volunteers’ Guide” lays into people with disabilities

The Beijing Olympics organisers have released a Volunteers’ Guide for the upcoming Olympics. And the guide has a chapter on volunteering skills, including a guide on how to interact with people with disabilities. This is good, right? Education, sensitivity training, combatting a few myths and assisting volunteers to treat PWD as people?

Erm, not so much. You can see the guide for yourself at the Beijing Olympics site, as a subpage of the Volunteers section, Chapter 6, “Volunteering Skills”. Direct download of the PDF file is here.

There is plenty on decorum, image, posture, etiquette, taboos, and attitude; and a little bit on first aid and what to do in the event of a toxic gas attack, fire, or trample.

Then there’s section III. “Skills for Helping The Disabled”. Here are a few choice bits.

Paralympic athletes and disabled spectators are a special group. They have unique
personalities and ways of thinking.


I. Basic Skills
1. Understand Their Thinking

Often the optically disabled are introverted. They have deep and implicit feelings and seldom show strong emotions.


Physically disabled people are often mentally healthy. They show no differences in sensation, reaction, memorization 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 “paralyzed”. It is not acceptable for others to hurt their dignity, so volunteers should make extra efforts to assist with due respect.


Hand language.

It is a language tool created for people who have hearing disabilities. It includes gesture language and finger language. Usually people call gesture language “silent language” or “hand gestures”, which has basic language functions, and is composed of a specific vocabulary and grammar system.

II. Good Attitudes and Requirements


(3) Helpful. Disabled people can be defensive and have a strong sense of inferiority. Sometimes volunteer’s own sincere actions might be regarded as disrespect- ful or demeaning and cause unintentional harm. Volunteers should respect disabled athletes and assist when asked.

(4) Understanding and patience. Some of the disabled are very sensitive. Other’s intentional words or actions might cause strong emotions. Volunteers should offer their understanding, patience and acceptance to avoid offense.

2. Serving the Disabled Is Different from Serving Other People


Where do I start?

[via The Australian]

Categories: arts & entertainment, language

Tags: ,

19 replies

  1. I usually start with the whiskey and work my way up from there.
    Annas last blog post..Oh, but see, the scary brown people didn’t say Booga Booga, so it’s okay.

  2. As soon as I figure out how to stop my jaw from hanging open like this, I’ll get back to you.

  3. Ye gods. Right at the end there’s a little quiz, the last question of which reads “What are the basic mental features of the physically disabled?” *cringe*

  4. “I usually start with the whiskey and work my way up from there.”
    Is a Bailey’s inappropriate at 10:30 am? I don’t have to drive till 4…
    “As soon as I figure out how to stop my jaw from hanging open like this, I’ll get back to you.”
    Fight against that temporary mandibular disfigurement affecting your personality, eh? I expect your next post to be unsocial, introspective, stubborn, controlling, oversensitive, and mistrusting. But I’ll try not to hurt your dignity, sweetie, just sit you over here in this corner.

  5. I still can’t think of anything cogent to add. I’m just gobsmacked by the total lack of clue they are displaying.

  6. If you were indeed one of the physically disabled who are isolated, unsocial, and introspective (we all have our days) you’d hardly be traveling all the way to the Beijing Olympics now, would you?

  7. Is a Bailey’s inappropriate at 10:30 am?

    Some of us call that “breakfast”.
    Not me, of course.

  8. Hey, I am unsocial, stubborn and all else they described, but it certainly ain’t because of my disability! 😉
    “Australians disappointed by Beijing disability guide
    The Australian Paralympic Committee says it’s disappointed by a series of instructions for Beijing Olympic volunteers in dealing with people with disabilities.
    The manual, titled Skills for Helping the Disabled, was available for volunteers to download from the official Beijing 2008 website.
    It has now been removed.”
    Read the section about the “optically disability” to a friend of mine, ahem, afflicted (oh, now, I couldn’t resist!) with the aforementioned disability. Best laugh either one of us has had all week…

  9. All they have done is disable the link to the guide from the main page – the direct PDF download is still available right now.
    I’ve also made the file available here, in case it does disappear altogether.

  10. Although never accused yet of partisanship with China, I keep fearing it will come. PLEASE understand that the belief that understanding others heals breaches is my only motivation. That said: China is a country untouched by PC. It is also a country where even good English speakers don’t fully comprehend the subtle (or less than subtle in this case!)nuances of language. Finally, it is a country where, since 1980 and the so-called One Child Policy it is almost unheard of to give birth to a child that is not physically perfect. So the average student has honestly, never in their lives encountered a disabled person.
    That cringe factor we know so well does not exist yet. I was correcting the first draft of a student thesis the other day wherein he blithely referred to Scarlett O’Hara’s “Mammy” throughout, and had just about cringed under the desk before he arrived for his tutorial!
    I’m not defending the above “Instructions” – this is a timely lesson for the Beijing Olympic Committee to learn – but one person’s crassness may have been structured as another persons pragmatism in this case, perhaps?

  11. That said: China is a country untouched by PC.
    I don’t think people with disabilities would be ecstatic to read “treating people with disabilities as human beings” as “PC”. YMMV, but I’ve come to read “PC” as (among other things) not important, surface behaviour, luvvie stuff.

  12. I read the common usage of “PC” even more strongly, Helen: it’s thoroughly derogatory. And “I’m being non-PC” is said in provocatively boasting tones.
    Responses to this Guide elsewhere, in comments sections, leant very strongly to the “What’s the problem? They’re right, aren’t they? About time there was some non-PC plain speaking. And the fact that people with disabilities are complaining just proves their point! HAH!”
    Check out the Times Online comments section for a few samples.

    ”Clear and concise guide. No political correctness. No humbug. Sometimes the truth hurts.”
    “Some disabled people can be very rude, demanding and “prickly” and detest the able bodied.”
    “I, too, am tired of pussyfooting around the diabled and making allowances for them and pandering to their incapacties just as I am about ethnic minorities.”
    “Having worked with disabled people, it is sad, but a reality that many disabled people think that their disability is somehow someone else’s fault, and therefore it is their right to rudely demand special treatment.. “

    There’s a whole lot of “What’s the problem? It’s just their culture”. Others blame it on poor translation (I’d be very surprised if it was that – the English is extremely competent.)

  13. I was surprised that the “we’re scared to say what we think, ‘cos of racial vilification laws” people of Camden weren’t blogged about – they too blamed opposition to their bigotry as being “from the politically correct”

  14. Irfan Yusuf has a good round-up over at his blog, UT. The demonisation of “PC” is definitely similar in both instances, but I’d hate for this thread about disability to be derailed by getting bogged down in the Camden religious/ethnic hostility.

  15. OK
    I didn’t mean to disrail
    I was just surprised that it hadn’t been blogged here

  16. Well, we can’t blog everything!

  17. Sorry if I seemed to post and run – been a hectic week.
    Sorry – absolutely no derogatory connotations behind my use of the word PC. Also, living out of the country one loses the subtle progression of nuance in our rapidly-changing language.
    I most certainly didn’t mean either any sense of “what’s the prob?” or “It’s their culture.” Part of my job here is to try to make people aware of different cultural normalities.I absolutely applaud those who brought it to the attention of The Committee – it was an important and wholly necessary highlighting of unacceptable speech.
    I only wanted to point out to anyone interpreting the entire text from a “Western” point of view that it would not have been written or published with any idea that it was offensive. O.k., so that’s offensive in itself. But we really have a long way to go trying to bring a culture from where the West was, say, 50 years ago – with common usage of the N-word, and others like retard, crip. loony etc – to day.
    Movements which helped us develop to where we are, like Hippiedom, Feminism, The Civil Rights Movement,Greenpeace, and, yeah, like it or love it, political correctness, just didn’t happen here.
    As I said before: having the ability to speak English does not equip people with a cultural understanding of what actually to SAY in English.

  18. I think it’s worth noting here that the Anglosphere is not that much better off than China in terms of what is considered a “cultural normality” (offensive and oppressive cultural normality, of course) when it comes to TAB perceptions of people with disabilities.
    This is very clearly illustrated in the Times Online comments I linked to above.
    I’m not bringing this issue up to point to China as an example of being everything the West is not, and to point to us as being so enlightened and not like “them” at all – I’m drawing more of a comparison than a contrast. We’ve made progress on paper, but legal reform is not even slightly the same thing as radical changes in grassroots attitudes to social justice.
    Yesterday’s followup in the Herald debunks the idea that it was a poor translation job. And a statement by BOCOG actually uses the words “mistakes were made” in its fauxpology.


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