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July 4, 2004

Deaf seek the right to drive in Shanghai

From: Xinhua, China - Jul 4, 2004 2004-07-05 10:46:26

BEIJING, July 5, (Xinhuanet) -- Some deaf people in Shanghai are arguing that they are capable of becoming good drivers and should be allowed to hold a legal driver's license, instead of relying on public transport or buying illicit licenses on the black market,

Currently, China prohibits deaf, blind and most disabled people from obtaining driver's licenses, making it one of some 20 countries in the world that turn down deaf drivers.

Last September, a revision of China's driving laws allowed people with a disability in their left leg to apply for an automatic transmission license.

Authorities accepted the argument that the healthy functioning of one's left leg is not a must for driving a car with automatic gears.

But that is the only exception to the legislation.

"Currently, only this type of physical disability is accepted," said Gu Guodi, a police official with the local vehicle administration division.

But some deaf people say the law is unfair as they could be good drivers.

"As deaf people, we want to enjoy the right of driving too and we are capable of doing it right and safe," said Zou Jie, a local billboard designer who is deaf and mute, during an online interview.

"Most people don't think we can drive safely because they don't understand the deaf," said the 31-year-old woman.

"Our hearing is impaired but our other senses and reactions are naturally trained to be extremely acute which is an advantage over normal drivers."

Wu Jianyin, a 30-year-old assistant architect agrees.

"In a lot of developed foreign countries deaf people are allowed to get their driver's licenses as long as they pass the tests," he said.

A recent news report in a local newspaper uncovered a growing number of locals with disabilities buying illegal licenses in neighboring cities.

People were passing the tests after bribing officials and doctors.

"In our circle, this is not a secret," said Zou, adding this was the only way deaf locals could get a license.

"With a number of deaf locals experiencing successful careers and improved living conditions, it is unavoidable that they will want to own and drive a car."

"But most of us don't want to be illegal drivers, so we have to forget owning our own cars," Zou said.

While a lot of deaf people believe they are qualified to drive, there are many that don't.

"Busy traffic is a headache every day for the city and the blaring of horns never really stops," said one taxi driver. "How could you possibly drive in times of congestion and not hear?"

Traffic police think the idea is inapplicable locally.

"The situation in the city is different. The traffic is far from being orderly with a great number of violations every day. Maybe it's possible for the deaf to drive in cities where the traffic is good with better behaved drivers and passengers," said Sun Guofu, a traffic policeman. Enditem

(Shanghai Daily News)

Copyright ©2003 Xinhua News Agency. All rights reserved.