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My perspective on education and employment of disabled people in China
July 25,2017   By:chinahumanrights.org

My perspective on education and employment of disabled people in China

Xirong He

Abstract

China has over 85 million people with disabilities of a population of 1.3 billion, as the largest community of disabled people in the world. Following the educationalreforms for disabled children beginning in the late 1980s, there were two ways for disabled children to access compulsory education, either special education or inclusive education. Furthermore, The Chinese version of inclusive education can be traced back to the implementation of Learning in Regular Classrooms (LRC). And what is more, compulsory education for disabled children has been quickly promoted by the implementation of some important laws related to disabled people, such as the Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons (1990, 2008) and the Regulations on the Education of the Disabled (1994, 2017).

Inthis paper, it will firstly outline the function of China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF), and then illustrate the overview of education development for disabled children, adding my personal perspectives on and participation in events and activities for disabled people in China.Last, my personal experience in education, employment and non-barrier environment will be illustrated.

In conclusion, from the perspective of my personal story, as a deaf person growing up in a hearing family, attending a mainstream school and working at the publishing press, it could be suggested that the period of early childhood is the most essential for every disabled child, which is likely to a good education, a good employment and a good life. Non-barrier environment in society and at school are essential for every disabled child / person to enjoy a happy life.

1 Background

China has over 85 million people with disabilities of a population of 1.3 billion, as the largest community of disabled people in the world. And China has experienced a rapid economy and education reform after China opened its door to the world in 1978. During this period, the educational reform had a great impact on the development in special education. Moreover, compulsory education for disabled children has been quickly promoted by the implementation of some important lawsrelated to disable people, such as the Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons (1990, 2008) and the Regulations on the Education of the Disabled (1994, 2017).

2 Contexts

Inthis paper, it will firstly outlinethe function of China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF), and then illustrate the overview of education development for disabled children, adding my personal perspectives on and participation in events and activities for disabled people in China.

2.1 China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF)

Last year, Zhang Haidi, the chairwoman of CDPF, was selected as the head of Rehabilitation International from 2016 to 2022. In terms of CDPF that was established in March 1988, there are five branches of this organization as a national umbrella to serve people with disabilities, including China Association of Persons with Visual Impairment, Hearing Impairment, Physical Impairment, Intellectual Impairments and Mental Illness.

Moreover, there are some key functions of CDPF: to represent the common interests and safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities; to provide comprehensive services to persons with disabilities; to supervise the administration of disability-related affairs, as commissioned by the central government.

In the 21st century, United Nation ‘Convention on the Rights of Persons Disability’ (CRPD) was issued On December 13th, 2006. It is significant to fully address the rights of disabled people in the history. After one year, Chinese government signed the CRPD on March 30th. Chinese government has made a strong decision to offer more great support service for disabled people.Then, its first report was submitted on August 31st,2010.

According to two big surveys conducted by China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF), there was an increasing number of disabled people from 51,640,000 to 82,960,000, from 1987 to 2006. The population of disabled children aged 0-14 decreased from 8,173,500 to 3,870,000. Similarly, as far as the disabled children aged 6-14are concerned, the number rose from 6,252,600 to 2,460,000.However, the population of disabled people aged above 60 had a rapidly increasing number from 20,510,000 to 44,160,000. In other words, the amount of 2.365 million disabled people aged above 60 has been increased in the past twenty years, as the oppositeof that of disabled children aged 0-14. From this perspective, the living conditions, the medical access and the educational provision has been improving fast and better over the last two decades.

2.2 Compulsory education for disabled children

Following the educationalreforms for disabled childrenbeginning in the late 1980s, there were two ways for disabled children to access compulsory education, either special education orinclusive education.

Regarding special education, the special schools are available for each disabled child to receive compulsory education and to accommodate different needs of each disabled child. For example, in Beijing, there are four deaf schools at which deaf children can receive compulsory education.

As far as inclusive education is concerned, there was an experimental program called “Learning in a Regular Classroom” (LRC) in the 1980s, which offered an educational opportunity for every child with disability to receive compulsory education with non-disabled children in a local community. This program was to safeguard each disabled child’s right to education. Also, at that time, this program only aimed to provide compulsory education for three types of disabled students, including hearing impairment, visual impairment and intellectual impairment. In 1987, the initial LRC program was created and provided for deaf children in Hailun, Heilongjiang province, where 85 deaf students received compulsory education. Then, XuBailun set up a project “Golden Key Blind Children Education Plan” and it was successful to carry out in Shanxi, Jiangsu, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Guangxi and Beijing and so on.

The Chinese version of inclusive education can be traced back to the implementation of Learning in Regular Classrooms (LRC) (He, 2016). In the recent years, China’s inclusive education has been engaged with global trend to inclusive education (He, 2016). In the 1990s, there was 1993 Harbin Declaration in China before 1994 Salamanca Declaration in Spain, which wasorganized by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). At the Harbin seminar, one Chinese scholar introduced inclusive education to China and explained its concepts to professionals who worked at the field of special education. The Spain conference has called on international attention paid to inclusive education for disabled students.

The education provision for disabled children has achieved a great improvement.According to the two big surveys conducted by CDPF, the number of disabled children who receive compulsory education is growing year by year. For example, the number of children with visual impairment, hearing impairment and physical impairment who receive compulsory education has been increased, respectively, from 42.9% to 79.07%, 45% to 85.05% and 59.9% to 80.36%.

2.3 Early childhood education for disabled children

In the subject of early childhood education, both Chinese government and CDPF have a great commitment to improve the support service for the disabled children. As far as the deaf children are concerned, the institutions in providing listening and speech training have been set up year by year. At the beginning, there were two main institutions in Beijing, one is China Rehabilitation Research Center for Hearing and Speech Impairment (CRRCDC) that was established in 1991, and the other is Beijing Hearing and Speech Training Center. They were successfully followed by other institutions in 27 provinces outside Beijing, such as Anhui, Chongqingand Fujian center and so on. In addition to provincial-level institution, there is an increasing number in grassroots-level institutions to provide the hearing and speech training for deaf children in a local place, which reached 961 by the end of 2015 (CDPF, 2016).

2.4 Events and activities for disabled people in China and my relevant participations

There are two main events and activities for disabled people in China organized by CDPF: one is National Day for Helping the Disabled People, the third Sunday in May since 1991; the other is National Ear Day, every March 3rd since 2000. The former was clearly addressed in the 1990 Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons to raise public awareness of disability. The latter was successfully adopted by World Health Organization (WHO) in 2013.

For example, when I was an undergraduate at Beijing Union University, I took part in both events of National Day in 2005. On the March 3rd, the 6th National Ear Day, I was selected as the Star of Youth Volunteer for Deaf Children on behalf on my university. And this event called for more and more youth volunteers to make a commitment to the work with deaf children and mainly offer help in hearing and speech trainings. Later, on the May 15th, the 15th National Day for Helping the Disabled People, I was interviewed by CCTV host Zhang Zequnon the CCTV-10. As a deaf person attending mainstream schools, I was to share my personal story with Chinese parents of deaf children and professionals who work with deaf children, in order to raise public awareness and increase their confidence in education and rehabilitation provided for deaf children in early years.

In May 2010, there was the first Festival of Special Education Culture hosted by Beijing Normal University. To celebrate the 20th National Day of Helping the Disabled People, I was invited to share my personal story as a deaf person attending a deaf school and mainstream schools with student at Beijing Normal University. To take my participation this year as another example, I took part in both events of National Day in China. One of these two events is that, on the March 3rd 2017, the 18th National Ear Day, as a role model,I was invited to share my personal life story,as a deaf person receiving the highest degree in a higher education, with Chinese parents of deaf children in XiamenXinxin Kindergarten.

In addition to the above events, there are other activities for deaf people and deaf culture. There is a growing strong deaf culture gathered in the community and in the Chinese society. Since a famous sign language dance “Bodhisattva” performed by 21 deaf dancers at Paralympic Games in Athens and Beijing, anincreasing number of Chinese hearing people are learning Chinese sign language. Furthermore, this dance demonstrated 42 hands, which represent a thousand hands in Buddhism. Moreover, sign language host emerged and accompanied with this sign language dance, which led to a visual shock and a visual beauty. Recently, almost each university has a sign language society, and those who join this club learn to use the basic and regular words in Chinese sign language.

3 My life experience in education, employment and non-barrier environment

3.1 Education experience

I was born in Beijing in 1984 and my parents were happy to see me. Then, I had a high fever for a long time and there was only way to cure the fever with injection. After much injection called “gentamicin”, my fever stopped, but then I lost my hearing when I was 10 months old. This sudden news had a great impact on my family and my parents were in a shock. They hardly accepted my deafness and often took me to visit many different hospitals, either big or small hospitals. During this period, I experienced acupunctures, Qigong, and tried different Chinese traditional medicines.

My parents worked hard to afford my first hearing aids when I was five years old. These hearing aids were quite old-fashion, like small boxes with two lines. After one year, I was educated at Beijing NO.1 deaf school and began speech therapy with a small group of deaf peers. I remembered we were learning how to speak and how to pronouncein the one-to-one class in the morning and in a group class in the afternoon. After school, my parents took me home and taught me how to learn Chinese words in the evening by following teaching structure recorded by my class teacher in the daytime on the same day. Day by day, I worked hard with my teachers at school and with my parents at home. I became the top student in my class after one-year intensive training in listening and speech.

Before registering at a local primary school near my home, my parents struggled for a period to make a decision on school pathways, either a deaf school or a regular school. When they decided on a regular school, my schooling life was beginning.

I remembered I cried on the first day in my school. Everything was new for me, no deaf peers, no teachers who worked with deaf students. I seated in the middle of the first row and I could be able to see my teachers’ lips. I took my all energy to see different teachers’ lips and adjust to their lip pattern. Unfortunately, I failed to follow what they taught differentcurriculumin a class on that day, such as Chinese, Maths, Science, Arts and Physics and so on.

After one day at my school, my parents picked me up and cared about me. They knew everything was a big challenge ahead me. At home, they patiently asked me what happened at school and I was speechless due to my limited capacity of describing the situations. My parents were clever to ask me to draw what happed at school and pointed out the objects like a textbook, so they quickly understood why I cried. Then, my parents taught me how to pronounce Chinese words that I never learnt before, such as teachers, classmates and curriculum and so on. Hence, I acquired these names and learnt how to say these words.

The next day, my parents went to my school and consulted with my class teacher. My class teacher was so nice and agreed to offer more help to accommodate my learning environment. On one hand, my class teacher explained my deafness to other teachers who taught me different curriculum, so they become deaf awareness about me. On the other hand, my class teacher used a simple story to tell my classmates about my deafness, so my classmates become friendly to help me. From then on, my barriers to learning at regular education removed. In the class, my classmates welcomed me to borrow their lecture notes and paid much attention to face-to-face communication with me. Also, my class teacher made detailed notes of every lecture on the diary every day. And my teacherson different curriculum would like to spend more time in teaching me again after class.

After school, my parents carefully looked at the notes that were recorded by my class teacher, and got to know that what knowledge of different curriculum was taught in the class. Then, they coached me to examine which part of knowledge that I fully understood and which part of knowledge that I found it hard to understand. I not only finished school work arranged by my teachers, but also did extra homework to deepen my knowledge understanding.

From the above story, to create a friendly learning environment in inclusive education, I would like to share some significant points with you. Firstly, home-school partnership is very important to be created and maintained by people involved, such as parents and teachers, when every disabled child starts schooling life. Every family of disabled children needs to raise their voices to be heard by the stakeholders, for example, head teachers, school staff, classmates. Secondly, every parent must be aware of the impact of disability on their children in every aspect of life, both in school and in society. Also, parents of disabled children should have a positive attitude toward the disability andtry their best to meet their disabled children’s needs.

3.2 Employment experience

The next story is to talk about my first career. After finishing my study in UK and obtaining the highest degree PhD at Northumbria University, I looked for jobs in China and I have been thinking of my career for a period. Then I got an offer as the book editor from China Intercontinental Press. I have worked for over two months so far, and I absolutely find this post suits me very best.

I remembered, onthe first day,I was very welcomed by each colleague. Also, I was placed to face the door in my office, and this is to make sure I have visual aids. So I can see people’s lips when they come to my office, and generally guess and get to know what news could happen around me if something is about me.

My directors treat me as equal as my colleagues,and I equally workwith my colleagues in an inclusiveness way.If I have questions to ask anytime, my colleagues are always happy to answer. I work with two colleagues in my office and they offer many help in my career. One of these two colleagues is my career tutor, and she taught me how to start work and gave me suggestions on editing a book. In addition to career help, my colleagues would like to help me in life support. I remembered, on the first day, I was touched to know my lunch routine was kindly arranged and sorted out by my colleagues in advance, in order to accommodate my needs.

I also feel equal to access each meeting. Inot only receive the meeting agenda in advance, but also see notes made by my colleagues. They also provide me with PowerPoints and meeting records. After the meeting, my colleagues are happy to share their notes with me and explain the meeting points.

Through working for over two months with the help of my colleagues, I can quickly settle down and I enjoy my first career very much. And I like this friendly and lovely working environment so much, which is filled with the equality and inclusiveness.

3.3 Non-barrier environment experience

The third story that I want to share with you is about, what non-barrier environment happens on me in China. After coming back to my hometown Beijing from UK at the beginning of this year, I make use of my disability ID card to enjoy a new life in my hometown, for example, going out for a trip, registering at the libraries and going to parks and so on. Indeed, lots of things happen in Beijing. When I travel by bus, Ican use this card to get a free pass, and I amalerted to know the destination through seeing the subtitles in Chinese and/or English. When Igo to parks, museums and art galleries, I can show this card at the entrance without buying a ticket. When I register at a new library, I can use this card to pay for a much cheaper register fee. When I go to cinemas and theatres, I can show this card to pay for a half-price ticket in normal times.

When I travel to other cities outside Beijing, I can show my disability ID card to staff at train station or airports, and then I am able to pass through the Green Channel and to receive better service. For example, I remembered this January, when I flied back from UK to Beijing via a Chinese airplane named “China Southern Airlines”, I explained my deafness to staff who worked at the flight to Beijing before getting aboard. They were so nice and would like to offer help when they got to know I am a deaf person. I was guided by their help and could know the safe guidance in detail by watching the video. The video was amazing for me to access both Chinese and English subtitles and Chinese sign language, which illustrates the non-barrier language environment. They also didface-to-face with me to make sure I know what they said and what happened on the flight.

In addition, I know about other great news. For instance, deaf people can drive a car now and their car will be for free parking. And people with visual impairments can have free pass to subways and many of them have a guide dog to lead them to the right direction. As a result, everything becomes better and better for me to receive available support. Indeed, this non-barrier environment could provide me with a convenient lifestyle.

4 Conclusion

In conclusion, from the perspective of my personal story, as a deaf person growing up in a hearing family, attending a mainstream school and working at the publishing press, it could be suggested thatthe period of early childhood is the most essential for every disabled child, which is likely to a good education, a good employment and a good life. Non-barrier environment in society and at school are essential for every disabled child / person to enjoy a happy life.

References

CDPF, China Disabled Persons’ Federation (2008) Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Disabled Person. [online] Available at: http://www.cdpf.org.cn/speical/6dh/2013-09/15/content_30451989.htm

CDPF, China Disabled Persons’ Federation (2016) Statistical Communique on the Development of the Work on the Persons with Disabilities in 2015. [online] Available at: http://www.cdpf.org.cn/zcwj/zcwj/201604/t20160401_548009.shtml.

CRPD, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) Convention and Optional Protocol: English. United Nations. [online] Available at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/convention/convoptprot-e.pdf

He, X. (2016) How Chinese Hearing Parents Support Their Deaf Children to be Ready for and Educated at Mainstream Schools. PhD thesis at Northumbria University at Newcastle, UK.

State Council (2011) The Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on the Education of the Disabled. [online] Available at: http://www.gov.cn/gongbao/content/2011/content_1860775.htm.

UNESCO (1994) The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education. Paris: UNESCO.

From:The Third Session of China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights , July 2-3