China’s National Human Rights Plan (and its inclusion of Disability) – Day In Washington Policy Podcast #37

Day in Washington Disability Policy PodcastEpisode Summary: Day in Washington looks at Disability policy issues both here in the United States and also abroad. This week’s episode is focused on China. In 1993, the United Nations called on countries to establish a national human rights plan. On Monday, the Chinese government published its first working plan on human rights protection, the 26th country to do so. This new plan is about 54 pages long and highlights various human rights that would be promoted and protected, including disability. The specific section is “Rights and Interests of Ethnic Minorities, Women, Children, Elderly People and the Disabled.”

According to the plan, there are more than 83 million people with disabilities in China. I have to admit, considering the high percentage of disability in most countries the estimate seems unusally low, covering only 6% of the population. The text of the plan for disability seems to have  seven areas of focus: Legal, Prevention/Rehabilitation, Environmental, Education, Employment, Poverty, and Culture.  Click below for the link to the full text file with language from the plan and my comments.

Audio File:  Audio Coming Soon

Full Text File:  See Comments

Resources:  National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010) from the China View

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1 comment for “China’s National Human Rights Plan (and its inclusion of Disability) – Day In Washington Policy Podcast #37

  1. April 16, 2009 at 8:46 am

    China’s National Action Plan for Human Rights and the Inclusion of Disability

    Hello and welcome to Day In Washington. I’m your host Day Al-Mohamed working to make sure you stay informed.

    Day in Washington looks at Disability policy issues both here in the United States and also abroad. This week’s episode is focused on China. In 1993, the United Nations called on countries to establish a national human rights plan. On Monday, the Chinese government published its first working plan on human rights protection, the 26th country to do so. This new plan is about 54 pages long and highlights various human rights that would be promoted and protected, including disability. The specific section is “Rights and Interests of Ethnic Minorities, Women, Children, Elderly People and the Disabled.”

    According to the plan, there are more than 83 million people with disabilities in China. I have to admit, considering the high percentage of disability in most countries the estimate seems unusally low, covering only 6% of the population. Looking at the text of the plan there seem to be seven areas of focus: Legal, Prevention/Rehabilitation, Environmental, Education, Employment, Poverty, and Culture. I have tried to stay as close to the original language as possible. The additional commentary, is, of course, mine.

    TEXT – LEGAL
    - Improving the legal system to promote the development of undertakings for the disabled and to guarantee their legal rights. This includes the formulation of a Mental Health Law, Regulations for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled, Regulations on the Construction of a Barrier-Free Environment, and other administrative rules and regulations, while encouraging local governments to revise the rules on implementing the Law on Protection of the Disabled and regulations for providing related preferential assistance.

    COMMENTS – LEGAL
    I think this is a great point. Although I am a strong advocate of cross-disability movements, the necessity of an additional separate Mental Health Law to protect individuals with mental health conditions is critical. Why? Because the amount of stigma, discrimination, stereotypes and outright abuse that is directed towards this population I think requires additional focus. In many parts of the world these people are still persecuted as being possessed. In addition, writing a disability rights law, in spite of the difficulties ensuring passage through a parliament or other governmental system, is easier than implementation and enforcement. The writers of this plan recognized that without enforcement, the laws are meaningless and local buy-in is essential for success.

    TEXT – PREVENTION AND REHABILITATION
    - Promoting disability prevention, rehabilitation and other services. The state has started mapping out a national plan for preventing birth defects and reducing the number of disabled people, exploring a way to establish a mechanism for early screening and rehabilitation for children aged up to six. Supervision of labor safety and hygiene will be strengthened to prevent and minimize disabilities caused by work-related injuries and diseases. In the period 2009-2010, standardized community rehabilitation services will be carried out nationwide in 80 percent of urban districts and 70 percent of counties, providing such services to 2 million disabled people.

    COMMENTS – PREVENTION AND REHABILITATION
    Prevention is one of the most cost-effective health-related expenditures that a government can make, particularly as it applies to disability. Whether it is preventing disability or other co-morbid conditions. My only question with regard to this point was the fact that the standardized community rehabilitation services would only cover 2 million disabled people, although the number may simply reflect the 2009-2010 time period.

    TEXT – ENVIRONMENTAL BARRIERS
    - Promotion of the construction of a barrier-free environment in 100 cities by 2010. Assistance techniques or substitute technologies such as Braille, sign language, captions and special communication facilities are to be adopted to pave the way for the disabled to receive and send out information, and to participate in social activities. TV programs with sign language and special broadcasting programs for the disabled are to be launched, together with the subtitling of TV programs and films.

    COMMENTS – ENVIRONMENTAL BARRIERS
    Having visited mainland China myself a few years ago, this point is desperately needed. As a person with a visual impairment I couldn’t help but applaud the emphasis on communication accessibility, but, recalling the architecture of Beijing and many many inaccessible buildings, I wish there was somewhat more commentary on basic physical access. However, to be fair, my time in China was prior to the massive amount of reconstruction resultant from hosting the most recent Olympics.

    TEXT – EDUCATION
    - Guaranteeing disabled people’s right to education. Students with disabilities are guaranteed to benefit from relevant preferential policies of the state, and non-governmental programs to assist the disabled in schooling are also promoted. In central and western China, a batch of special-education schools will be built or expanded. Secondary vocational schools are encouraged to set up special courses for the disabled.

    COMMENTS – EDUCATION
    This point leaves me with many questions and some concerns. The emphasis seems to be on the creation of a parallel system for individuals with disabilities separate from people without disabilities. A parallel education system will not create better inclusion and integration or encourage a lessening of discrimination and stigma. During my stay in Beijing, I did not meet a single other person with a disability, which seemed to indicate that integration of students with disabilities was still the very rare exception.

    TEXT – EMPLOYMENT
    - Guaranteeing the disabled people’s right to employment. The government will strengthen employment training for the disabled and the construction of an employment service network, standardize and develop business that offer jobs to a considerable number of disabled people at one go. It will promote compulsory hiring of disabled people in accordance with their proportion to the population at large. The protective employment system for the disabled will be improved, which includes tax deduction and exemption, and the special production and marketing of certain products by the disabled. Measures such as creating welfare work posts and providing social security subsidies will be implemented to ensure that by the year 2010 there will be 300,000 additional jobs for the disabled in cities and towns.

    COMMENTS – EMPLOYMENT
    Some parts of this plan mirror what is in place here in the United States and some parts go well beyond. Promoting the compulsory hiring of people with disabilities is an interesting idea and I wish I had more information on how that works in China, the positives and the negatives. If anyone has additional information, I would love to learn more. The protective employment system and welfare work posts, is something that fascinates me and is so different from the U.S. model where the assumption is that what is needed is just equality of opportunity. Once that has been achieved, individual effort will ensure equity.

    TEXT – POVERTY AND RURAL AREAS
    - Enhancing support for poverty-stricken disabled people in rural areas. Help will be provided to enable the 4 million disabled rural people who want for food and clothing to have adequate food and clothing, to enable the 400,000 disabled rural people with financial difficulties in the central and western regions to receive training in practical skills, and to enable 128,000 rural disabled people to rebuild their dilapidated houses.

    COMMENTS – POVERTY AND RURAL AREAS
    I think this is great! In the U.S. is very difficult to find policy and legislation that recognizes the additional difficulties related to poverty and to living in rural areas. The assumnption is that all disability efforts, services and programs are equal and that should work. But living in rural Missouri, or North Dakota or even on a reservation has unique challenges just as individuals living in poorer or more rural parts of central and western China.

    TEXT – CULTURE AND SPORTS
    - Guaranteeing the cultural and sports rights of the disabled. Disabled people will continue to use public cultural and sports facilities at a discount or free of charge. The Chinese government supports cultural programs of a public welfare nature, such as the production of cultural and artistic products for the disabled, and the publication of books for the blind. Encouragement will also begiven to develop the special artistic skills of the disabled. Mass sports and fitness activities for the disabled will be promoted to boost their participation in the Paralympic Games, the Special Olympics and the Deaflympics

    COMMENTS – CULTURE AND SPORTS
    This last point completes the collection of provisions to allow for a well-rounded plan. Sports, recreation and artistic and cultural activities are just as important as employment and education for people with disabilities. I only hope that this includes making accessible cultural and artistic programs that are open to the general public rather than creating separate programs. And that it also includes making theatres and art galleries accessible for attendance as well as participation.

    I’m not sure whether this plan will work or not but what I do think is positive is that this document was written not as I’ve envisioned so many UN documents…a report, where a country talks about everything they have done well (and potentially ignoring what they haven’t done so well). But is written as a plan, forward looking. Now the question is…will this elicit actual positive change? For people with disabilities, I hope so. It will be a promising first step.

    And that’s it for this week’s edition of Day In Washington. For more information about disability policy issues both here and internationally please check the website often: http://www.DayInWashington.com. If you have comments or questions or are interested in being a guest on this program please contact me via email or call 206-888-6009. Thank you for listening.

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