Development of Programs for Persons with Disabilities in China

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-20 00:11
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    China has 83 million persons with disabilities, a large number of people with difficulties. Since the founding of New China, in particular since the institution of the reform and opening up policy, China has achieved a great deal in its efforts to help persons with disabilities. These efforts have attracted the attention of the world and allowed the government to accumulate valuable experience in the process.

    One, we improved the legal system by passing more laws and regulations to help persons with disabilities. The Chinese government has always attached great importance to safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities through legislation. Over the past 60 years China has established a basic system of laws and regulations to safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities and develop programs to help them. The Constitution is the core of this system and the Law on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities is the basic law. The system also includes other related laws, statutes, rules and regulations defining preferential and support measures for persons with disabilities. More than 60 major laws contain provisions for safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities. The State Council promulgated the Regulations on the Employment of Persons with Disabilities and the Regulations on the Education of Persons with Disabilities. All provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the central government have instituted measures for the implementation of the Law on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities. Most counties, cities, towns, townships and city districts have formulated regulations defining preferential and support measures for persons with disabilities. 

    Members of the China Handicapped Art Troupe perform the dance “Kuan Yin of a Thousand Hands.”/ Photo by Zhong Min

    Two, the government has developed national plans and campaigns for persons with disabilities. First of all, surveys have been carried out to clarify the basic conditions and fundamental needs of persons with disabilities in China. These surveys provide an accurate scientific basis for developing programs for persons with disabilities and formulating laws, policies, and development programs for protecting their rights and interests. Second, a national plan has been created for developing programs for persons with disabilities. The State Council has approved implementation of five plans for developing programs for persons with disabilities since 1988. Programs for persons with disabilities concerning rehabilitation, education, employment, poverty alleviation, social security, protection of their rights, culture and sports, development of barrier-free environments and prevention of disabilities have been carried out, greatly improving the plight of persons with disabilities. Third, governmental agencies have been set up to coordinate programs for persons with disabilities. In 1993, the Coordinating Committee on Programs for Persons with Disabilities of the State Council was established, which was renamed the Working Committee on Persons with Disabilities of the State Council in 2006. This committee is responsible for coordinating the formulation and implementation of guidelines, policies, regulations, and programs for persons with disabilities as well as other major issues related to helping persons with disabilities. Governments at all levels have also established working committees on persons with disabilities. Fourth, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued Opinions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Promoting the Development of Programs for Persons with Disabilities. This document explains the importance and the guidelines for helping persons with disabilities, defines the current and future objectives, tasks, guiding principles and major measures and provides major measures for helping persons with disabilities.

    Three, the public has become more aware of the importance of helping persons with disabilities and the social environment for such persons has improved. We have made great efforts to promote humanitarianism and a view of persons with disabilities in conformity with the progress of a modern civilized society. We advocate understanding, respecting, showing concern for and assisting persons with disabilities and are working to create an environment that enables them to participate in social activities on an equal footing with persons without disabilities. We have staged a variety of activities to support persons with disabilities and resolve the practical problems they face. Efforts to develop barrier-free environments have been strengthened to make it more convenient for persons with disabilities to leave their homes to carry out personal business, exchange information and communicate with others, participate in social activities and enjoy public services.

    Four, efforts have been made to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to fully participate in social activities. First, organizations for persons with disabilities have been established and are taking an active role in helping such persons. In 1978 the China Association for the Blind and Deaf went back into operation, in 1984 the China Foundation for Disabled Persons was established and in 1988 the China Disabled Persons’ Federation was established. Federations of disabled persons have since been set up at the level of the province, city, prefecture, county, district, township, town and city district. These federations have themselves established various types of special associations. Community groups and villages have also set up associations for disabled persons. Second, persons with disabilities are encouraged to try to improve themselves. The government recognizes persons with disabilities who have done the most to improve their own lives, be innovative, participate in society and contribute to society. Their stories and hardworking spirit have a strong impact on the public, especially among persons with disabilities. Third, persons with disabilities have been encouraged to play their role in democratic activities, democratic administration and democratic oversight. Over 3,100 persons with disabilities and their relatives have been selected as deputies to local people’s congresses or as members of local committees of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the level of the county or above. These deputies and committee members diligently exercise their democratic rights and actively participate in the deliberation and administration of state affairs, and have made positive contributions to economic and social development and in helping to improve the lives of persons with disabilities. Fourth, we worked to ensure that persons with disabilities were able to extensively participate in social, cultural, and sports activities. The theme for the Shanghai 2007 Special Olympics was equality, tolerance and benevolence and the theme for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games was transcendence, integration, and equality. The success of these two games helped create a civilized, advanced and harmonious image of China in the world. 

    Five, China actively participates in international events for persons with disabilities and engages in exchange and cooperation with other countries. China carefully implemented the UN World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons, actively participated in the UN Decade of the Handicapped (1983-1992) campaign and for two decades has supported activities of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons. We worked hard to help formulate the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and we have established and maintained good relations and cooperated with international associations of persons with disabilities and related international institutions. We learned from experiences of other countries and played an important and constructive role internationally in handling the affairs of persons with disabilities. The Third Session of the Standing Committee of Eleventh National People’s Congress in June 2008 adopted the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This reflected the solemn vow of the Chinese government to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

    China’s efforts on behalf of persons with disabilities have been highly praised worldwide. The UN and related international organizations have awarded the UN Prize for Human Rights and over 10 other prizes to the China Disabled Persons’ Federation and its leaders. The availability of rehabilitation services has been rapidly extended, and more than 15 million persons with disabilities have taken advantage of these services. Education for persons with disabilities has developed at a fast pace, and more and more disabled children are now receiving compulsory education. Considerable progress has also been made in vocational education and higher education for persons with disabilities. Employment opportunities for disabled persons have expanded allowing 4.513 million disabled persons in urban areas and 17.171 million disabled persons in rural areas to find employment. Great progress has been made in reducing poverty through development and more than 10 million rural persons with disabilities have been added to the list of people with adequate food and shelter. The social net has been strengthened, and 7.386 million persons with disabilities are now receiving cost of living allowances, 2.976 million are now covered by social security, and 627 thousand live in special institutions and homes for the aged where they can live with others like themselves and receive food, clothing, medical care and housing and have their burial expenses covered. Persons with disabilities are enjoying more cultural and sports activities than ever with the establishment of 3,530 special cultural activity venues and 1,192 sports venues for them at and above the prefectural and city level. Athletes with disabilities have done well in a number of international sports competitions. The environment for the participation of persons with disabilities in social activities has been improved. Public opinion concerning persons with disabilities has greatly changed so that more and more people now express concern for and assist persons with disabilities. The overall cultural and intellectual level of persons with disabilities has been improved allowing them to make better use of their abilities and actively contribute to economic and social development.

    The effort to help persons with disabilities has entered a new stage of development. We need to carefully implement the Opinions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Programs for Persons with Disabilities and establish a permanent and effective mechanism to improve the lives of persons with disabilities and promote rapid progress in programs for them.

    First, we need to promote development of the social safety net and service system for persons with disabilities. The social safety net and public services for persons with disabilities are being incorporated in the general plan for development of the social safety net with their access to public services improved to ensure they receive proper attention in planning and implementation. Efforts to help disabled persons will be given special emphasis and support in the plan. More persons with disabilities will be covered by the social safety net in both rural and urban areas and particular programs for disabled persons with special difficulties will be formulated in view of the requirement to combine generalized preferential treatment with special preferential treatment and to combine general institutional measures with special institutional measures to improve the level of social safety net for them. We are accelerating formulation of technical standards and trade administration policies on services for persons with disabilities and making master plans for developing nursing and health care services, rehabilitation, social security, education, employment, and culture and sports, and for protecting their rights. Priority is being given to developing services that are most urgently needed by disabled persons, that will benefit the greatest number of disabled persons and that will most benefit society. We will be stepping up efforts to develop public service facilities for disabled persons and improve their ability to serve them.

    Second, we will be intensifying efforts to implement the Law on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities and improve relevant laws and regulations. We will be doing more to make the public aware of the Law on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities and urge local governments to revise and improve measures for the implementation of the law. We will accelerate formulation of regulations concerning rehabilitation of persons with disabilities, regulations on developing barrier-free environments and national standards for classifying disabilities to provide powerful legal guarantees for programs to help persons with disabilities.

    Third, we will make good progress in all programs to help persons with disabilities. We need to ensure that all tasks defined in the Outline of Programs for Persons with Disabilities during the 11th Five-Year Plan Period are completed on schedule. We will be working out the Outline of Programs for Persons with Disabilities during the 12th Five-Year Plan Period aimed at better resolving survival and development issues of disabled persons and narrowing the gap between disabled persons and an average person in society.

    Fourth, we will give full play to the role of the general public by mobilizing the enthusiastic participation and support of all sectors of society in programs for persons with disabilities. We will take full advantage of the role of all types of charities and encourage civic organizations, enterprises and individuals to finance development of public service facilities for persons with disabilities. At the same time, we will be working to arrange for existing facilities, equipment and other resources in society to provide service to persons with disabilities. We will continue to develop volunteer services for persons with disabilities in both rural and urban areas and develop a stable volunteer force and a permanent mechanism to care for and assist disabled persons.

    Fifth, we will expand the role of organizations for persons with disabilities. We will improve the organization of federations at all levels to ensure that they can better perform their functions, represent the common interests of disabled persons, protect the legal rights and interests of disabled persons and act as an effective bridge between the Party and government and persons with disabilities. We will be working hard to develop and administer programs to better serve disabled persons. We will be working to raise the overall quality of the work force involved in programs for persons with disabilities to develop a contingent of workers that have good professional ethics to serve persons with disabilities, i.e. which are humane, free from corruption and dedicated to their work.

(From Qiushi in Chinese No.15 2009)


Note: Author: President of China Disabled Persons’ Federation

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