China's disabled get limited schooling, Human Rights Watch says
More than a quarter of mainland children with disabilities don't go to school, while many of those who do are prevented from attending mainstream institutions or taught by untrained teachers, a rights group said.
A report by New York-based Human Rights Watch said students with disabilities are denied access to regular schools unless they can prove they can adapt to the schools' physical and learning environment, and that there is little or no accommodation for such students.
In one example, the group said a mother went to school several times a day to carry her child up and down stairs because the toilet was on a different floor from the classroom.
The report sheds light on how the mainland's burgeoning problem of social inequality applies to people with disabilities. There is only a nascent public awareness of the issues that people with disabilities face.
Just days before the Human Rights Watch report was released, theEducation Ministry issued its own report on the same topic.
The ministry's report said that 28 per cent of children with disabilities are not enrolled in compulsory nine-year education. But it said the 72 per cent enrolment rate represented a jump of nearly 10 percentage points from 2008, and that an increasing number of disabled students were in regular schools with proper accommodation.
Yang Zhanqing, an independent advocate for people with disabilities, said the Human Rights Watch report was "quite objective" but that the picture would be worse if interviewees from remote, mountainous regions were included in the research.
"No Chinese student with disabilities has his or her rights fully protected," said Cheng Yuan of the non-governmental agency Ganzhilu, which helps people with disabilities.
In its report, the Education Ministry said both central and local governments have pumped funding into special education. Of all 378,800 students with disabilities in schools, more than half were in regular schools with necessary accommodation, including home tutoring, the ministry said.
However, Human Rights Watch said the reality was different. Despite government policies ensuring access for children with disabilities, many of them have in practice been denied admission to mainstream schools or pressured to leave, the report said. Often, teachers have received little training to adjust to the needs of children with disabilities, it said.