60-year-old massage hospital trains hundreds of blind practitioners
BEIJING, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- About 760,000 patients visit Beijing Massage Hospital every year, having sore backs soothed and stiff joints loosened by the skillful hands of 139 practitioners, 82 of whom are visually impaired.
Growing from a seven-member massage clinic founded in 1958, the hospital is a non-profitable institution supervised by the China Disabled Persons' Federation.
Unlike most private-run massage clinics concentrating on treating patients, the hospital makes training visually-impaired massage practitioners its priority.
Over the past six decades, it has trained more than 8,700 blind practitioners through offering in-house programs and sending experts to teach short programs in other hospitals.
"Massage practitioner is one of the jobs that the visually-impaired can be good at and turn into a career," said Lai Wei, director of the hospital. "It is our duty to provide them with high-quality professional training."
Wang Hailong was forced to give up the prospect of becoming an accountant by a genetic illness that seriously harmed his eyesight.
Having limited choices, he went to a medical school massage program and interned in Beijing Massage Hospital before joining the hospital in 2003.
Since 2010, he has also been a student of a renowned master of traditional Chinese medicine, benefiting from the master-disciple training that the hospital has long upheld.
"I used to think that massage was conducive to people's health but did not actually cure illnesses," he said. "From my master, I learnt a lot and gained the confidence to be a real doctor."
Beijing Massage Hospital not only trains visually-impaired practitioners but also publishes technique manuals and develops standard operating procedures.
"Only a small number of visually-impaired people are able to learn a professional skill such as massage and even fewer can work at public hospitals," Lai said. "We would like to share our expertise with other institutions so that more can receive proper training."
According to the national census in 2010 and a survey on disabled population in 2007, China had more than 12 million visually-impaired people, out of a total of 83 million disabled people.
While the country aims to lift the whole population above the poverty line by 2020, disabled people, who make up of a significant part of the poor, particularly in rural areas, are also high on the government agenda.
Last month, the Ministry of Education issued a guideline to promote vocational training for the disabled so they are more prepared for employment and starting up their own business.