Women of China
20th November 2017
Program Promotes Self-respect for People with Intellectual Disabilities
By Li Lei Editor: Hewater Liu
The government and NGOs are working together to ensure that people can obtain work and improve their lives, as Li Lei reports.
In some developed countries, people with intellectual disabilities, such as autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome are enrolled in supported employment programs that offer them the opportunity to work. Now China is catching up.
Liu Shunli could be mistaken for a regular store assistant were it not for his clumsy movements and the meticulousness way he performs his tasks, such as attaching price tags to containers, folding cake boxes and mopping the floor at a branch of the Auspicious Phoenix Bakery in Beijing’s Shijingshan district.
The 24-year-old, who has Down syndrome, has been working at the bakery six days per week from 8 am till 5 pm for more than seven years. He earns about 2,000 yuan ($300) a month, the same as his able-bodied colleagues.
“I like working here. I can earn my own money, and I also have friends here,” he said.
Personnel manager Lu Chang said the bakery has been working with organizations that provide vocational training and rehabilitation services for the intellectually disabled since 2010.
Auspicious Phoenix employs more than 20 intellectually disabled people in the capital, working alongside able-bodied members of staff. “We have about 280 branches across Beijing, which is a huge advantage because it allows us to employ people in the bakeries nearest their homes,” Lu said.
Before joining Auspicious Phoenix, Liu enrolled in the Supported Employment Program and received vocational training at Lizhi, a rehabilitation center and a vocational training school for the intellectually disabled in Beijing’s southwestern suburbs.
Everyone on the program is assigned a mentor, who helps them to acquire basic work skills, select a suitable job and cope with any problems they face at work.
“At the beginning the mentors join them in the workplace, but they gradually reduce the frequency of their visits. After about six months the person can work independently,” said Feng Lu, Lizhi’s director.