At 11:40 a.m. on April 1, the country's very first disabled driver received his C5-class license, here in Chengdu.
Cao Qianming (曹前明) is a former Chinese National Games for the Disabled champion. He passed the driving-theory test in February of this year and then enrolled in driver's training courses for a month.
Cao, who is missing both of his legs, drives a specially modified car that includes a five-point seat belt.
New policies concerning the issuance of driver's licenses went into effect the day that Cao received his license.
The amendment to the Regulation for the Application and Use of Motor Vehicle Driver Licenses affects handicapped drivers; specifically, drivers who are missing their right limb or both limbs and/or fingers, as well as the hearing impaired can now be issued driver's licenses, provided they meet other standard driving-license requirements.
On the same day, Zhu Caizhong (朱才忠) received his license as well. Zhu Caizhong was infected with polio as a child. Not long after, Liao Guolong (廖国龙) also received a C5 driver's license.
But just over a week later, a hot debate emerged when a new handicapped parking space appeared on Xiqing Lu, in the city's northwestern Jinniu District. The space is marked by a blue pylon designating the space as available to handicapped drivers only.
On April 30, the West China City Daily reported
On Chengdu's Xiqing Lu, one parking space stands out from all the rest. It's Chengdu's very first parking spot designated for the exclusive use of handicapped drivers. Reaction to the parking-space development has been largely positive, especially from disabled drivers.
In fact, the spot was surrounded in controversy when news of its appearance first broke in mid-April.
"There are only three handicapped people with driver's licenses in the whole city," said an opinionated driver. "Does that really necessitate these handicapped parking spaces?" If handicapped spaces are set up in each of the 400 to 500 parking lots within the Third Ring Road, the three drivers would have hundreds of parking spots at their disposal, a Chengdu Commercial Daily reporter argued, going on to state that a public poll indicated that citizens felt parking spots should be designated as merely handicap-priority, so that non-handicapped drivers could also make use of the spots if they were available.
The emergence of the parking spot, largely branded a "trial" by the police office that had initiated it as well as local media, raised never-before-asked questions in a city that is already ill-equipped to handle the growing number of personal vehicles its residents demand.
"How long and how big should a parking spot for a handicapped driver be? Is it necessary to have one in every single parking lot? If an able-bodied driver parks in a handicapped space, should he or she be penalized? We haven't answered any of these questions yet," explained a spokesperson for the Public Security Bureau.
On April 29, it was announced that the city government and municipal committee had passed laws to guarantee that existing public roads and buildings be modified for handicap accessibility and that future roads built in a handicap-accessible manner. It also stipulates that disabled parking spaces be made available free of charge to those with valid handicapped driver's licenses.
Finally, the regulation stipulates tuition subsidies for disabled people and children of disabled people as well as the incorporation of Braille, subtitling, and sign language for television and other organizations.