Editor's note: China Mosaic looks into the diversity and complexity of China. In the second episode, we focus on the lives of the disabled people in China.
"When I jump from 3,000 feet, I feel free, free from the wheelchair. I'm also released and I can see the vastness of land. Falling straight down through the clouds is thrilling," said Pan Meihao, a 27-year-old woman who has been in a wheelchair since she was a child due to spinal cord injuries.
Growing up in a small town in the city of Nanyang, central China's Henan Province, Pan had limited chances to interact with other people or the outside world when she was young. "Before I came to Beijing, the only people that I spent time with were my family. I thought that nobody had disabilities and everybody could walk," said Pan. At that time, she thought that she would never live on her own because she was a "patient" and she had to be taken care of by others throughout her life.
However, Pan changed her mind after she came to Beijing to participate in a charity project that encourages and helps young people disabled by rare diseases be independent. Thanks to the project, Pan got the chance to make new friends who share similar experiences and she came to realize that she was not alone. "When I'm in trouble, nobody around me says, 'Oh, you're not up to it,' or 'You won't make it.' We encourage each other instead," Pan stated.
Pan now works for a company and her job involves helping people in rehabilitation hospitals who are, like her, wheelchair-bound because of spinal cord injuries. "I also share my company's medical philosophies with them to help everyone choose a lifestyle that's healthier and suits them better," said Pan.
Outside of work, Pan also devoted herself to charity work that aims to help more people with disabilities maximize their potential and help them be a part of mainstream society.
China now has around 85 million people with disabilities, according to the China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF). For years, the country has committed to improving the conditions for people in this community. Yet, more efforts are needed and more attention should also be paid to the mental health of people with disabilities.
Pan is the founder of a charity organization that helps women with disabilities cultivate self-awareness through art.
"Many people may wonder why physically challenged people like me don't just stay at home, or why these people do things that are out of the ordinary for everyone. So the whole thing is about breaking stereotypes. Disabled women actually live in a cocoon and need to let out their emotions. So they note down their feelings through, say, through drawing or writing, and then come up with really nice ideas," said Pan.
Story editor: Feng Ran
Cameramen: Liu Yang
Video editing: Feng Ran
Executive producer: Bi Jianlu
Supervisor: Mei Yan
(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at email@example.com.)