China’s Spring Festival travel rush can be stressful for anyone, as hundreds of millions of people travel home for the holidays.
For the visually impaired, it’s an altogether more challenging experience.
That’s why a volunteer force in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou has been beefed up to provide help for this group of passengers.
“As of the end of January, the number of volunteers in Hangzhou hit more than two million. Hangzhou has a population of nearly nine million — this means one in every four people is a volunteer,” said Mao Lijing, deputy secretary of the Hangzhou Volunteer Association.
For the volunteers, helping the visually impaired get home is very much a team effort.
“We’ve been helping the blind for four years. Now we’ve started collecting information about the blind passengers who are coming to or leaving from Hangzhou,” said Gu Yajuan, head of Spring Festival Travel Rush Volunteers.
Chinese railway stations are a place of serious hustle and bustle during the Lunar New Year travel rush. It’s a good job that Gu and her team are on hand to help negotiate escalators, lifts and crowds.
“The service is terrific. People in the team are all amiable — I feel like they are my family,” said Guan Dongning, a visually impaired passenger helped by Gu.
“I had to ask around while walking alone with a white cane. The tactile pavements are problematic. Sometimes they end without warning while you’re walking on them, so you don’t know which path to follow.”
Over 300 visually impaired people have already managed to safely return home for China’s most important holiday, thanks to the work of the volunteers in Hangzhou.