From July 18th to 22nd, on behalf of China Vision, Ni Zhen and Lu Han took part in the HKU Summer Workshop on Disability Rights and Equality.
This is the second annual HKU Summer School on Disability organized by our dear friend Professor Simon Ng who is also a passionate advocate for inclusion. The focus of this year’s program is on inclusive education, with speakers from the US, Australia, UK, as well as Taiwan and Hong Kong. Professor Roger Slee from the University of South Australia gave inspiring lectures and workshops on his innovative idea of “irregular school”, which calls for inclusion and democracy in education. Professor Michael Stein’s vivid stories on “the making of the CRPD” prompted genuine discussions among all participants. He later talked about his experience working with different governments on designing programs that promote inclusion in schools and workplaces. Other scholars contributed results and lessons derived from their own research relating to inclusive education in different cultural contexts.
Most of the participants of the workshop came from Hong Kong local NGOs and schools who serve the needs of people with disabilities. During the week, many of them pointed out the difficulties parents face obtaining official information on education for students with special needs, as well as the lack of understanding of social inclusion among communities in the region.
Ni Zhen and I gave a presentation on Article 24 of the CRPD and the challenges faced by Mainland Chinese inclusive education practitioners and advocates. Aside from some policy analysis, we spoke mainly about our findings in the past year working on Inclusion Works. Quite a number of the dilemmas Chinese parents and advocates face are essentially the same in Hong Kong. For example, one of the main educational barriers to inclusion is the very structure of a traditional Asian classroom, therefore inclusive education essentially points to a fundamental revolution on the whole educational philosophy. Meanwhile, on the advocacy front, both Mainland and Hong Kong advocates struggle between a charity-model view on including children with disabilities versus demanding the rights to education directly. Since China Vision places great value in advocacy work, at the end of the presentation, we also shared our vision on future areas of work in promoting inclusion in China by collaborating with educators, policy makers, parents, legal experts, and the general society.
Apart from exchanges at the workshop, quite a lot of time was spent on fervent discussions during tea breaks and lunches. Topics of these discussions range from philosophical debates over the concepts of disability and normalcy, inclusion and prejudice, to practical tools used by activists in different regions of the world. The workshop was a wonderful experience that allowed us to be connected with others working on the same issue across the globe. We all knew this was a thought-provoking process when we left with more questions and less answers.
Lu Han July 2016