More people with disabilities gain access to education

Jia Kaitao, second from right, an art teacher at a special education school in Xiajin county, Shandong province, teaches students porcelain carving, on Jan 5, 2020. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Access to quality education is one of the top priorities for people across the board, but for those living in rural areas or those with disabilities, that access can be more difficult. To make sure that those on the margins get educated and have more fair chances in life, the government has pushed for more inclusive education over the past decades.

Someone who has seen the improvements firsthand is 50-year-old Yang Yang from Zhejiang province, who has lived with a severe hearing impairment from the age of 4. Yang, a council member of the China Disabled Persons' Federation, is serving as a member of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference this year.

"Because of my hearing disability, I am unable to correct my pronunciation. Having a hearing disability is like a glass wall separating us from people who can hear," she said.

"But thanks to the development of hearing aids and an improved and more accessible environment with rehabilitation services and inclusive education, people with hearing loss also have a voice."

Growing up she had experienced hardship in schooling and finding a job.

"I was refused by many normal schools and whenever I got the chance for conditional admission, I just kept staring at teachers' mouths in class to imitate their pronunciation. I didn't have hearing aids and a cochlear implant until I was 38."

It is a very different situation today, with people with such disabilities able to better participate in education and even attain doctorates and study overseas, she said.

"The improved inclusive education, which allows children with disabilities to enter normal schools, has allowed us to achieve our dreams. Now, we and our peers work in many professions such as doctors and deliverymen, which we couldn't even imagine before."

In the past decade, China has made efforts to provide children of school age access to fairer education.

In 2017, the State Council, China's Cabinet, approved a regulation on disabled people's education, which banned prejudice in education against people with disabilities.

Figures from the China Disabled Persons' Federation show that in 2021 about 468,500 disabled students were admitted into normal schools, while the number was only 199,800 in 2012.

In 2022, seven central departments such as the Ministry of Education and the China Disabled Persons' Federation jointly released and implemented an action plan on improving special education during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25).

The action plan stresses a fair education for all children with or without disabilities, and to improve the quality of special education by combining it with normal education, vocational education, rehabilitation and the application of technology.

Under the action plan, about 97 percent of disabled children of schooling age will have access to compulsory education by 2025.

Wang Ping, director of Shanghai's education commission, said that special education is an important symbol of social civilization and progress, which is also a way of showing the nation's and people's warmth.

He said that Shanghai has about 9,000 disabled students in education, with over 55 percent of them at normal schools and 40 percent in special education schools. About 4.7 percent of children with severe disabilities have at-home classes.

He said that it's of great importance to make sure that disabled children have fair opportunities in receiving education so that they have more chances of living a better life.

In addition to helping more disabled people receive fairer education, Yang said that she and her peers are also taking an active role in charity work and are contributing their suggestions on accessibility legislation.

"We hope that society can be more inclusive and livable to every one of us," Yang said.