Olympics Volunteers Guide

3 06 2008

BEIJING — Beijing Olympic organizers have issued an apology for the language used to describe disabled athletes in a manual compiled for thousands of volunteers.

Wording in the English-language document used clumsy stereotypes in reference to the disabled. Zhang Qiuping, director of Beijing’s Paralympic Games, said last week it was a problem of “poor translation.” However, the Chinese-language version contained many of the same stereotypes.

“We would like to express our deepest apologies to those organizations, athletes with disabilities and friends who were offended by our publication,” the organizing committee said Monday in a statement.

The statement said the booklet had been recalled and was being rewritten.

The 200-page volunteer manual offers guidance for volunteers in areas ranging from serving the disabled to basic rules. About 70,000 volunteers will work on the Aug. 8-24 Olympics and 30,000 more will serve during the Paralympic Games on Sept. 6-17.

A section dedicated to the disabled said that “paralympic athletes and disabled spectators are a special group. They have unique personalities and ways of thinking.”

To handle the “Optically Disabled,” the guide said: “Often the optically disabled are introverted. They have deep and implicit feelings and seldom show strong emotions. … Remember, when you communicate with optically disabled people, try not to use the world ‘blind’ when you meet for the first time.”

On the “Physically Disabled,” the guide said: “Physically disabled people are often mentally healthy. They show no differences in sensation, reaction, memorization and thinking mechanisms 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 ‘paralyzed.'”

The guide said volunteers should “not fuss or show unusual curiosity, and never stare at their disfigurement.” It also advised volunteers to steer away from words like “cripple or lame, even if you are just joking.”

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