What’s It Like to Be Disabled in China?

James Palmer in Aeon:

Disability-chinaMia could win over anybody who knew her. But to get those chances meant battling past a wall of entrenched prejudice and fear. Willy had been able to get past his initial feelings about her, motivated largely by his desire to ‘not be a peasant’, but others were complacent in their bigotry. Despite her intelligence, she had not received any university offers, and her chances of employment were worryingly slight. Chinese universities routinely reject qualified candidates with the excuse that their ‘physical condition does not meet the needs of study’ – a policy of discrimination written into some schools’ constitutions. Meanwhile, figures published in Chinese state media last year show that only a quarter of disabled people are able to find any form of employment.

If you judged the country by its laws alone, China would be a global leader on disability rights. The ‘Laws on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities’, introduced in 1990, offer strong and wide-ranging protection of the civil rights of the disabled, guaranteeing employment, education, welfare, and access. But despite the high concerns of the law, Chinese cities make little concession to disabled people. As the sociologist Yu Jianrong has documented, raised pathways for the blind often lead into dead ends, bollards, trees or open pits, or else spiral decoratively but misleadingly. Wheelchair access is non-existent, especially outside Beijing or Shanghai, and guide dogs are effectively forbidden from most public spaces, despite the authorities’ repeated promises of full access.

Read the rest here.