BEIJING, March 11 (Xinhua) -- Liu Weichang's latest policy proposal -- to urge China's budget hotels and cheap eateries to install barrier-free facilities -- was inspired by a friend.
Last October, his friend, who was using crutches, stumbled in a budget hotel toilet. Unlike upscale establishments, the hotel apparently did not bother to install handles in its toilets.
The accident prompted Liu to survey small restaurants and hotels in several cities in his home province of Hebei.
He found that almost none of them were accessible to the disabled.
"Handles and ramps for wheelchairs are not expensive. We just still don't have that kind of public awareness to care for the disabled," he said in an interview with Xinhua.
There are about 85 million people with disabilities in China.
In Beijing, where attention to accessibility only started to increase after the 2008 Olympics, barrier-free facilities are still not easy to find in places other than high-end venues or in urban districts.
"But most disabled people can't afford luxurious lifestyles, so it is more important to have handicap facilities installed in inexpensive public places," said Liu.
Liu is in a position to bring his concerns to a broader audience. The 50-year-old farmer, who does not have a political party affiliation, is a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, China's top political advisory body.
His proposal, together with those of more than 2,000 other members submitted at the advisory body's ongoing annual session, will be transferred to government bodies for reference.
Under the system, the CPC and non-Communist parties work together rather than opposing one another. The political advisory system plays a role in political consultation, supervision as well as handling of state affairs.
Born in a small village in Hebei, Liu has had trouble walking since he suffered polio at age one.
As the youngest of six siblings, Liu didn't get much special treatment when growing up, despite his disability. His parents insisted he go to school and do farm work like the others with the hope that he could live on his own as an adult.
In junior high, he would wake up early to bike to the nearest town miles away, selling vegetables in a market before going to school.
"The experience taught me perseverance -- a lifelong fortune," he said.
In 1991, Liu started the county's first private school.
Unlike traditional exam-oriented rural schools, Liu insisted on teaching students subjects such as science, arts and music, and helped them form lifelong exercise habits like running.
His students later enrolled in prestigious universities and went on to become lawyers, teachers, and successful businessmen -- a rare accomplishment in his rural county.
Liu's school has become immensely popular. Today, it has 2,500 students and ranks high in national academic achievements. Later in his life adventures, he opened a school for deaf children and started other businesses that employ disabled people.
SPEAKING FOR DISABLED PEOPLE
Liu became a member of the CPPCC National Committee in 2013 and has since championed disabled people's rights at the national level.
Liu was thrilled this year to see that Premier Li Keqiang's government work report included a line he had suggested in a proposal, submitted in 2013, to grant living and nursing subsidies for 17 million poor people with severe disabilities.
"I don't think it's due to my personal suggestion, but because of increasing government awareness," he said.
The government will also continue to help disabled people find jobs, according to the report.
Since last year, multiple inspection teams sent by CPPCC National Committee have investigated and supervised barrier-free access in places like Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Hainan, making construction and use of the facilities one of the top agenda items for the CPPCC's supervision work.
"One of our disabled team members couldn't get into a subway station until a station worker was called to start the long-suspended elevator," said Wu Mingjiang, an inspection team member.
Shi Dazhuo from the Jiu San Society, one of the eight non-Communist parties, said blind-friendly sidewalks are often blocked.
"Compared with developed countries, we still have a long way to go in caring for disabled people," he said.
The CPPCC National Committee last year organized a total of 92 tours to study, supervise and advise on the implementation of the 13th Five-Year Plan.
More than 4,200 proposals of national CPPCC members received responses from government departments in 2016 -- a reply rate of up to 99.84 percent of proposals submitted.
Next year, Liu plans to research the nursing situation for elderly disabled people to prepare for a proposal. He is thinking about suggesting building nursing homes at county-level places for them.
"Some of them end up dying alone as they can't even find a spouse. They need extra care from society," he said.