HANGZHOU, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Living with disabilities, Guo Hui never expected that a job on the Internet, which he took up by chance, would help him get his life back on track.
In 2004, he was involved in a liquid gas container explosion that burned 95 percent of his body and disabled eight of his fingers. At that time, it was seemingly impossible for him to earn a living. But now, using his two fingers, Guo manages to earn about 5,000 yuan (about 726.8 U.S. dollars) a month by working as an online customer service support staff.
The Internet has brought new hope to Guo's life. Having saved money over the past two years, Guo is now able to afford podiatric surgery in Beijing. "I am proud that now I can support myself and I'm sure that my life will get better."
Guo is not an exception. Now, there are more than 1,000 disabled people working as online customer service staff nationwide. By October 2018, a total of 6,405 disabled people were employed in similar online positions, according to China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF).
China's booming Internet industry has not only provided job opportunities for disabled people like Guo but also provided opportunities for them to start their own businesses, allowing more disabled people to earn their own living.
Zhao Mei is one of those entrepreneurs who, although disabled, managed not only to start her own business but also help 35 of her disabled friends find jobs. She set up an online shop selling mops and brooms, with an annual business volume of more than 2.2 million yuan.
The Internet's role in empowering people with disabilities was highlighted in a guideline issued jointly by CDPF and other ministries of China in February 2018. The guideline has provided strong support for disabled people who use the Internet to get a job or start a business.
Statistics from CDPF and Alibaba show that on Taobao, China's largest online shopping website, 174,100 online stores, selling about 11.66 billion yuan of goods from June 2018 to May 2019, are run by disabled people. Among them, 21,800 shops each succeeded in reaching over 30,000 yuan in sales in May 2019.
Besides offering help in working for and starting a business, China's Internet industry has also strived to integrate disabled people into working in the Internet environment more conveniently. "Internet plus helping disabled people" and "barrier-free Internet environment" are those two themes Internet companies have focused on in recent years.
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba set up an information accessibility technician group to help disabled people enjoy the services of its platform. Up till now, over 17,000 visually impaired people have run online shops on Taobao and some 597,000 visually impaired people have experienced the convenience brought by online shopping.
Tencent recently announced that it has launched three AI technologies for accessibility, including optical character recognition (OCR), speech synthesis and image-to-voice conversion, aiming to enable more companies and developers to build a more accessible and friendly information society for the disabled.
It is estimated that by the end of 2010 there were about 85.02 million people with physical or mental disabilities in China.
Hu Xionghua, chairman of the Hangzhou association of persons with physical disabilities, said in today's information society, the Internet will contribute a lot towards integrating people with disabilities into society by providing a barrier-free environment or, in other words, rebuilding "senses" for disabled people to help them access information at work and in life.