One Shoe program helps leg amputees in China

05:20

For decades, Luan Qiping’s dream was to own a comfortable pair of shoes. Born in Liaoning Province (northeast China), he was diagnosed with polio when he was only 8 months old, which left him with foot deformities. For over six decades, he has been walking on feet of different sizes and valgus ankles.

“I wore shoes made by my grandmother,” Luan recalls. “But growing up, I started going to shoe stores and asked the owners to help me find suitable shoes.”

In 2007, Luan met two amputee friends, one wearing only one left shoe while the other wore only the correct one. After learning that they had the same shoe size, Luan came to the idea that he could be a “matchmaker” for other amputees who also share this nuisance.

He decided to start a newsgroup called “One Shoe Bank” on QQ, a popular messaging app in China. People who needed a left or right shoe could swap their shoes through the group. As more and more people wanted to join, Luan created more discussion groups, eventually with over 5,000 members.

Luan believed that creating a matchmaking platform was all he could do for the Chinese amputee community, then in 2010 a surprise arrived in the form of some 20,000 shoes sent from shoe factories in the city. from Wenzhou, in eastern China, known as one of the major shoe manufacturing centers, with the help of the Liaoning Foundation for the Disabled.

“At first I just felt curious and wanted to learn more about how factories get rid of unwanted shoes,” said Luan, flabbergasted by the large number of new shoes thrown in landfills.

After learning about their effects on the environment, he decided to go to shoe factories to collect unique disposable shoes, choose comfortable ones, and deliver them to the people who needed them. Luan said most of the factories he visited responded well to the idea.

The people who received the shoes would pay for the delivery. But Luan had to spend his own money looking for simple shoes and bringing them back.

Luan and a shoe factory owner are chatting beside a truck loaded with simple shoes. The shoes were donated by a shoe factory in Putian, east China’s Fujian Province, March 11, 2020. / Courtesy of Luan Qiping

Luan and a shoe factory owner are chatting beside a truck loaded with simple shoes. The shoes were donated by a shoe factory in Putian, east China’s Fujian Province, March 11, 2020. / Courtesy of Luan Qiping

Word of Luan’s initiative spread. People from other provinces have started volunteering to help Luan. After receiving Luan’s package of individual shoes, these volunteers distributed them to those in need. So far, more than 300 people from across the country have volunteered their services.

In the past 14 years, 60,000 individual shoes have been distributed by the “One Shoe Bank” all over China. For Luan, the “Bank” has become a career. He says seeing the daily struggle of people with physical disabilities gives him a sense of responsibility.

“Everyone has a different goal in life. I just want to do something valuable after retirement,” Luan said. “It was a very difficult trip, but in the end it was worth it.”

‘One Shoe’ becomes a program

There are over 24 million people with physical disabilities in China, including 2.26 million amputees. About 1.81 million people have lost a leg, but about 60% of lower limb amputees do not use a prosthesis, according to the National Research Center for Rehabilitation Technical Aids.

To help people who need single shoes to buy shoes more easily, China’s online shopping platform Tmall, a spin-off from e-commerce giant Alibaba, and the Chinese Federation of People with Disabilities ( CDPF) launched a program called “One Shoe” in November.

Under this program, seven sportswear brands cooperated, providing unique shoes that are sold at half price and packaged in half-size shoe boxes. Through this program, consumers can buy and pay for a single shoe instead of a full pair.

The idea for the program came from Wang Shengtian of Alibaba’s marketing department. This summer he told a friend with a disability about the shoes. During the conversation, Wang felt his friend’s distress when it came to buying a single suitable shoe.

“We’re so used to the fact that the shoes are sold in pairs. But should we take it for granted? Wang reflects.

The program is a business solution to meet the needs of a group of people, rather than a public welfare activity, said Wang, also the program director. “We plan to include more brands on the platform.”

The shoebox from “One Shoe”. / courtesy of Tmall

The shoebox from “One Shoe”. / courtesy of Tmall

“I was very excited to find out about this program because it gave me the option of buying just one shoe,” said Zhu Yunfeng, a 25-year-old amputee who is preparing to compete in cross-country skiing and skiing. high jump. during the upcoming Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

Zhu lost his right leg in a car accident at the age of 3 and was fitted with a prosthetic leg. But most of the time, he uses a crutch instead because of the discomfort caused by wearing the prosthesis.

Zhu Yunfeng competed in the men’s F42 / 63 high jump final at the 11th National Disabled People’s Games and 8th National Special Olympics, in Xi’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, on October 23, 2021. / Courtesy of Zhu Yunfeng

Zhu Yunfeng competed in the men’s F42 / 63 high jump final at the 11th National Disabled People’s Games and 8th National Special Olympics, in Xi’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, on October 23, 2021. / Courtesy of Zhu Yunfeng

“I was hoping that there would be more types of professional sports shoes suitable for people like me, such as shock absorbing shoes which can better protect my joints when running and jumping,” Zhu said. “Currently, the choices are very limited.”

“We hope that the program can operate in a sustainable manner,” said Zhang Jingdan, assistant secretary general of the China Commission for the Promotion of Advertising for Chinese Disabled People’s Businesses. “It takes efforts from both government and business to explore business service models that are suitable for people with disabilities. “

From “One Shoe” to personalized service

Although this is a progressive initiative, experts pointed out that while the program may help people with disabilities who only need one shoe, it may not be inclusive enough to cater for the diverse needs of people with disabilities.

“The needs of people with disabilities are very personalized, such as personalized assistive devices which are currently very expensive in China,” said Yang Lixiong, associate dean of the Disability Institute at Renmin University of China. “To lower the price of personalized service, we need a larger and more active participation in the market.”

Disability is part of the human condition, and almost everyone will be temporarily or permanently disabled at some point in their life, according to the World Health Organization’s 2011 World Report on Disability. Personalized service helps these people to live more comfortably.

The “One Shoe” program is a type of personalized service, said Yang. “This is more of an advocacy campaign to raise awareness of the diverse needs of people with disabilities than just offering them discounts.”

Personalized Service provides personalized services that are tailored to the needs or preferences of an individual. In China, it covers areas such as customs, home improvement, and travel.

“Personalized service not only meets the needs of a small group of people with disabilities, but also benefits all of us,” said Shao Lei, dean of the Institute for Accessibility Development at Tsinghua University. “Everyone is equal to choose personalized service to live more comfortably.”

Video editor: Yang Yiren

Editors: Wang Xiaonan, Zeng Ziyi


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