No medals for Olympic guide

Beijing guide labels disabled ‘unsocial’

May 26, 2008 - 4:50PM

Disabled people can be unsocial, stubborn, controlling, defensive and have a strong sense of inferiority, according to an official Beijing Olympics guide set to spark outrage in the disabled community.

The Olympic manual for volunteers in Beijing is peppered with patronising comments, noting for example that physically disabled people are “often” mentally healthy.

Volunteers at the Olympics and Paralympics are instructed not to call Paralympians or disabled spectators “crippled” or “lame”, even if they are “just joking”.

The document, which indicates the Chinese hosts could use a swift education in political correctness, says the optically disabled “seldom show strong emotions”.

“Physically disabled people are often mentally healthy,” adds a copy of the guide, obtained by AAP.

"They show no differences in sensation, reaction, memorisation 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 paralysed.”

Volunteers are instructed never to “stare at their disfigurement”.

"A patronising or condescending attitude will be easily sensed by them, even for a brain damaged patient (though he cannot control his limbs, he is able to see and understand like other people).

“Like most, he can read your body language,” says the 2008 volunteer guide.

"Show respect when you talk with them.

"Do not use cripple or lame, even if you are just joking.

"Though life has handed many difficulties to them, disabled people are often independent and self-reliant.

"Volunteers should offer assistance on a basis of equality and mutual respect…

“Disabled people can be defensive and have a strong sense of inferiority.”

China’s treatment of the disabled has in the past angered swimming great Dawn Fraser, who cited it as one reason she won’t be going to Beijing.

She said in April she had seen disabled athletes spat on in the streets in Beijing during university games in the mid-1990s.

Volunteers at the Beijing Games are also given some very specific instructions on how to sit, stand, walk and talk properly.

A handshake should last from three to five seconds, the manual states, and the body and arm should form a 60 degree angle.

An “appropriate” personal space on social occasions is from 1.2 to 3.6 metres, but for work colleagues it is 1.2 to 2.1 metres, and 2.1 to 3.6 metres is good for strangers.

When sitting, volunteers are told to avoid hooking the chair with one foot (“low-class and boorish”), stretching out their legs (“rough”), crossing the legs in a “4” shape (“cocky and impolite”) and continually changing positions (“underbred”).

When standing, the guide warns against shaking any part of the body (“careless”), putting two hands in pockets (“frivolous”), crossing both arms (“defensive”), standing with two arms or one arm akimbo (“offensive”) and standing with two legs crossed (“too easygoing”).

It says taking steps too large or too small looks “strained”, though it does not specify how large the step should be.

The Olympics run from August 8-24, while the Paralympics follow from September 6-17.

© 2008 AAP