The railways are here to let those with a disability travel unencumbered.
In general, more and more railway stations in China are catering to passengers with disabilities and special needs. Although there are no railway station churches (as might be the case in the West), the railways are giving extra attention to those who are taking a journey by train with a difficulty.
All Chinese high speed trains are ready to welcome disabled passengers, although it is advised that station staff are informed as early as possible. Wheelchair-ready facilities are standard on most HSR trains.
In China, the following passengers are considered special care travellers (重点旅客):
- the elderly (老) — age limit: 70 and above
- the very young (幼) — for kids travelling for free with their parent(s)
- the ill (病)
- the injured (残)
- the pregnant (孕)
If you meet the above criteria, look for the Special Care Waiting Area (重点旅客候车专区), or contact station staff. Usually, staff will care for at least your entire station visit, and in many cases one-to-one service will continue right onto the station platform and onto the train.
Most CRH high speed trains have services which allow wheelchair users to board trains with minimal problems, especially in stations which offer high platforms (高站台), such as all new HSR (300+ km/h) stations. High speed trains will also have at least one toilet which allow wheelchair users access (to use these, you may need to push a button to open and close the door, and to lock or latch it).
Rail staff are responsible in catering to these special guests. Here’s a bit of Chinese to get you the help you need. (Note: It’s probably not a good idea to misuse unless you really are, say, on crutches!)
- 有老人 (you lao ren): There’s a senior.
- 有小孩儿 (you xiao hair): There’s a child.
- 有孕妇 (you yun fu): There’s a pregnant lady.
- 有用轮椅的 (you yong lun yi de): Someone’s using a wheelchair.
- 有失明的 (you shi ming de): Someone is hard of vision.
- 有聋哑的 (you long ya de): Someone is dead-mute.
- 有病人 (you bing ren): Someone’s ill.
- 有伤残的 (you shang can de): Someone’s injured.
Finally, Chinese mainland servicepersons who have been injured are entitled to lower fares across the railway network. The same also applies to passengers with major injuries, provided they hold supporting documentation issued by PRC authorities.
Privacy information: It is possible that your special needs service be recorded onto Weibo (China’s version of Twitter), although this serves as evidence that service at that station is available to fellow special care passengers! (Also, in the great majority of cases, special care service is done so well that you’d want to be featured, believe it or not!)
Pregnant and on the go? Chinese Railways have had a track record of caring to those who become suddenly pregnant (or suddenly ill) and are about to deliver whilst on the go. In most cases, they will be able to help you out. There have also been cases where emergency rescue vehicles were present on the platform, bringing passengers to a more professional environment.
Are you a doctor? On in particular long-distance regular trains, if you are a doctor or other qualified medical professional, and provided you are fluent in Chinese, the rail crew may request you to report your presence whilst you are onboard. Please collaborate if you can — it’s not often you’ll be called upon to help, but then — doesn’t it feel good to “don on your Good Samaritan self” and help those in need — and to make that difference