The China Disability Policy Dialogue was held in Beijing on 3rd December - the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Over 80 representatives from the government, academia, the civil society - in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, the media, as well as the private sector attended the event.
Mr. Nicholas Rosellini, UN Resident Coordinator in China highlighted China’s progress on advancing the equal rights of persons with disabilities, as guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). He stressed that at the UN “it is our objective that persons with disabilities are empowered to fully and equally participate in China’s development process, so that the Sustainable Development Goals are realized not only for persons with disabilities, but also by and with persons with disabilities.” Many participants attending the event echoed this remark.
Mr. You Liang, Director General of International Affairs at the China Disabled Persons’ Federation introduced China's work in promoting disability inclusion, in the context of participating in the work of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Dr. Marielza Oliveira, Director and Representative of the UNESCO Beijing Cluster Office and Chair of the UN Sub-group on Disability noted that a shift from the “medical model” to a “social model” in viewing and responding to disability has already taken place in China, although there are still challenges and gaps to address in all spheres of the society. Global developments pointing to a rapid increase in attention to disability inclusion also requires a positive and robust response from China as an international leader and influencer. The UN is here to assist in this effort.
More than twenty speakers shared latest development and remaining challenges in the disability field in China, from the policy level to the community practices in education, employment, health, access to justice and social assistance, information accessibility and media reporting for persons with disabilities, paying special attention to women with disabilities.
Many issues discussed at the event are intertwined. The Revised Regulations on the Education of Persons with Disabilities, which came into force in 2017, requests that mainstream schools take students with disabilities. However, many schools still lack capacity to ensure every student with disability receive relevant and quality education in an inclusive environment. Excluding persons with disabilities from mainstream education reduces their employability, and even when they are qualified, companies are not ready to hire them due to the lack of accessibility and support needed. China’s quota system for hiring persons with disabilities is an important milestone but without adequate placement and counselling services, training and facilities, it cannot be fully implemented. Women and young people with disabilities face significant barriers to access sexual and reproductive health services. Discrimination and stigma also hinders the social participation of persons with disability, and the role of media is crucial in that respect. Fostering partnerships across sectors and activities is essential to promote social inclusion and this is what this event is all about.
The Policy Dialogue brought together experts working in diverse areas to share best practices and explore a multi-disciplinary approach to address these difficulties in disability inclusion. The Global Business Disability Network - China Chapter, launched in August this year, is a business driven initiative to promote the employment of persons with disabilities, linking business directly to persons with disabilities. Innovative solutions, such as MIUI’s user-participatory approach to the internet development and the promotion of information accessibility was also presented, demonstrating that the private sector is playing an increasingly active and vital role in solving global development issues.
In closing the event, Ms. Claire Courteille-Mulder, Director for ILO Country Office for China and Mongolia concluded that “Access to education, employment, income, information, control over one’s body and sexuality are everybody’s basic aspirations and there is no difference for persons with disabilities. By acting together across our fields and sectors, we can create this environment in which all of us, including people with disabilities, enjoy a life free of stigma and discrimination.”
The China Disability Policy Dialogue was held as part of the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) China Programme. Since 2014, the ILO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, and UNFPA have been working together with national partners and stakeholders to reduce inequalities and promote disability inclusion. Through capacity building, evidence based advocacy, technical support and partnership development, the project led to changes in laws, polices and strategic frameworks to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in China.