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No One Left Behind
China strives to promote the wellbeing of citizens with disabilities
By Zhang Zhiping & Wang Hairong | NO. 49 DECEMBER 3, 2015

 

Students have a music lesson in a special education school in Luoyang, Henan Province, on September 9 (XINHUA)

Confidence was written on the face of Yang Yuanwang, a resident with disabilities in Datang Village in central China's Hunan Province. This confidence stemmed from his transformation as someone who needed others' help to someone who helps others.

Years ago, a workplace injury left Yang with a disabled left hand and he experienced severe depression as a result. But his life was changed after participating in a free training session on livestock breeding techniques offered by Hongjiang City's Disabled Persons' Federation, where he learned to raise chicken, ducks and pigs. He later traveled out of town with the federation in order to learn how to feed swans.

In 2009, with help from the federation, Yang founded an animal husbandry cooperative together with fellow villagers. They leased a reservoir to raise fish and set up a farm on nearby land to grow poultry, goats, pigs and swans. With discounted loans for persons with disabilities, their business has gradually expanded. Today, more than 50 people are working in the cooperative, including several individuals with disabilities.

Since 2011, people with disabilities like Yang who have been able to move out of poverty have numbered 5.06 million in China, according to the China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF). In the same period, 9.13 million persons with disabilities have received government and private assistance in production and employment. The dilapidated houses of 438,000 impoverished persons with disabilities have been renovated, and 3.36 million such individuals have received training on vocational skills.

After the government released the Outline for Development-Oriented Poverty Reduction for China's Rural Areas (2011-20) in 2012, more than 6.8 million rural residents with disabilities have received support.

 

A tourist experiences barrier-free travel in Qixing Park in Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on November 10 (XINHUA)

Poverty alleviation

The Chinese Government recently announced its goal to lift the 70 million plus people living below the country's current poverty standard out of privation in the next five years, which includes millions of citizens with disabilities.

Statistics from the CDPF show that, of China's 85 million people with disabilities, more than 70 percent reside in rural areas. One out of five rural persons with disabilities is living below China's current poverty line, which suggests that the indigence rate among this group is more than twice the national average.

Worse still, close to 60 percent of rural persons with disabilities do not live in contiguous poverty-stricken areas or counties listed in the national poverty reduction program, and hence cannot benefit directly from national funds aimed at relieving the issue in the areas.

On October 17, China's second National Poverty Relief Day, CDPF Chairwoman Zhang Haidi said that alleviating the impoverishment for rural persons with disabilities is directly related to the effectiveness of development-oriented poverty mitigation on a national level.

Now, China is paying special attention to targeted poverty abatement.

In addition to raising social security benefits to meet the basic needs of impoverished people with disabilities, efforts have been made to increase the supply of basic public services such as medical and rehabilitation services, special education and housing, especially those for rural residents with disabilities.

In line with new policies rolled out earlier this year by the State Council, China's cabinet, financially troubled persons with disabilities will receive living allowances and persons with severe disabilities will receive a nursing subsidy starting from January 1, 2016.

Assistance measures specific to the needs of persons with disabilities have been included in the national development-oriented poverty alleviation program. The government has promised to verify the status of indigent people with disabilities, and designate persons to help each relevant household.

The government will also provide vocational training and mortgage-and-interest-free micro loans to persons with disabilities, boost their employment by developing industrial bases, and enable persons with disabilities who have lost their working ability to reap the benefits of government poverty reduction programs through share allotment so as to provide them with steady incomes.

Additionally, the private sector is encouraged to help meet the needs of impoverished people with disabilities.

Education for all

On August 2, when 20-year-old Zheng Rongquan received an admission letter from Wenzhou University in Zhejiang Province, he was understandably excited. He was the first visually-impaired student in Zhejiang admitted into a regular university. In 2015, a total of 5,359 students with disabilities nationwide were admitted into regular universities, according to the CDPF.

Students with disabilities in China can access both special and regular education. Since 2014, visually-impaired students have been allowed to take regular college entrance exams in Braille in China.

Last April, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the CDPF jointly issued a document requiring that more conveniences be provided to accommodate examinees with disabilities, such as hearing aids, special desks and chairs, optical magnifying glasses and other auxiliaries. Examination times may also be extended accordingly.

Many people with disabilities receive instruction in special education schools scattered across the country. Official statistics show that as of the end of 2014, China had about 2,000 special education schools, which enrolled 395,000 students and employed 48,100 teachers.

In 2010, the State Council announced to offer assistance to all students with disabilities in primary and middle schools so that they would not drop out because of financial difficulties.

In 2014, the MOE and several other central government departments released a plan for improving special education, which pledges to ensure that every child with disabilities has access to proper education. Various localities nationwide have also made their respective local plans in this regard.

Since 2014, the government has sponsored the preschool education of more than 50,000 children with disabilities. Meanwhile, the MOE is making policies to improve vocational education and popularize standard sign language and Braille across the country.

Public investment in special education infrastructure has increased. Central and local governments have spent a total of 5.4 billion yuan ($845 million) in building, renovating or expanding 1,182 special education schools over the past eight years. Since 2012, the Chinese Government has invested a total of 3.2 billion yuan ($501 million) to support the construction of infrastructure for the special education major in normal universities and secondary and higher vocational schools. From 2013 to 2014, the Chinese Government's earmarked funding for special education has increased 7.5 fold.

Social support for special education is also unprecedented. In the past four years, the China Foundation for Disabled Persons raised 20.6 million yuan ($3.2 million) for special education, benefiting 280,000 children and youths.

Employment promotions

After graduating from college, Sha Jingjing and Wu Haijian, both hearing impaired, were employed by a textile company in Nantong, Jiangsu Province. "They are quick at learning new skills!" their supervisor Xu Xiaoyan said approvingly.

China has been actively promoting employment for persons with disabilities like Sha and Wu. Since 1990, the government has required employers to recruit a certain percentage of persons with disabilities in appropriate types of jobs and posts.

In September 2013, seven central government departments including the State Administration of Civil Service released a document urging employers to meet the percentage requirement. Various local governments also produced measures to implement it.

A State Council regulation issued in February stressed that except for small businesses less than three years old and hiring fewer than 20 people, those employers failing to meet the percentage requirement should pay a fine and those hiring more people with disabilities than required will be rewarded. The document states that government departments, public institutions and state-owned enterprises should take the lead in recruiting persons with disabilities.

Shen Weiwei, a person with disabilities in Shanghai, became a civil servant at the city's Commission of Science and Technology last year. In December 2013, Shanghai opened some vacancies in municipal government departments and public institutions exclusively to people with disabilities. More than 400 people applied for these positions and 18, including Shen, were hired.

"I took part in two civil service exams before, but due to physical reasons, I could not win the competition when measured against able-bodied candidates," Shen said. She is satisfied with the job she now holds.

In 2015, the Beijing Municipal Government also reserved five vacancies for persons with disabilities to be filled through the annual civil service exam. The practice has also been in effect in other places such as Chongqing and Tianjin municipalities, as well as Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Henan, Hubei, Jiangsu, Jilin and Shaanxi provinces.

International cooperation

The Chinese Government has taken an active part in international disability-related affairs.

Under the joint efforts of China and other members of the international community, the development of undertakings related to persons with disabilities has become part of the cooperation among members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Asia-Europe Meeting.

During the 22nd APEC Economic Leaders' Week in Beijing in November 2014, 20 APEC economies launched a joint initiative on promoting equal access and inclusive development of people with disabilities.

In September, a disability rehabilitation forum attended by representatives from China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was held in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in south China.

Additionally, China has always participated in the discussion on the UN Post-2015 Development Agenda, and promoted the inclusive development for people with disabilities on various occasions.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities has been actively implemented in China, which has taken legislative, administrative and other measures to fulfill the responsibilities under the convention, including amending the Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons.

China has formulated and implemented six national development outlines for persons with disabilities, and released two National Human Rights Action Plans whose key content includes the protection of rights and interests of these persons. Now the Chinese Government is drafting special plans to bring them into "a moderately prosperous society in all respects" under the country's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) for social and economic development, to be adopted by the National People's Congress in March 2016.

Copyedited by Mara Lee Durrell

Comments to wanghairong@bjreview.com

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