China, International Perspectives on Disability
December 14, 2015
China And People With Disabilities
By Patricia Chadwick
Can news and information pave the way to a better life for people with disabilities in China?
The situation for the estimated 80 million disabled people in China can be symbolized by the “blind lanes” that were installed starting in 2001 in a well–intentioned effort to help blind people navigate in cities. Although the tactile pathways are helpful in some cases, many end up at a barrier or sometimes, in an effort to be decorative, are installed in patterns that seem to discourage the most direct path to a destination.
I have been to China six times, starting in 1995 when I traveled with a group of disabled women from the US to the Non-Governmental (NGO) Forum at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. At that time, when most Chinese disabled people were kept hidden away, women with visible disabilities were objects of curiosity, subject to stares and gathering crowds when they ventured outside the conference grounds.
Even today 20 years later, the lack of social services in many areas, the lack of enforcement of disability rights laws and the stigma still attached to being disabled mean that many families don’t believe they can care for a disabled child. Since China has relaxed its one-child policy and implemented “baby refuges,” close to 98% of the children who are abandoned in China have a disability.