Millions across the world celebrated the triumphs and accomplishments of people with disabilities on Monday.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities has been a special day in China since it was proclaimed by the United Nations in 1992. This year the day was observed with a theme of “Empowering Persons with Disabilities and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality.”
Among those whose accomplishments are being celebrated is Liu Liangzhou, who is partially deaf and works at a “silent bakery.” Liu studied cake baking at a culinary school in 2009. Qiu Junken, the manager of the school, initially doubted Liu’s ability to complete the program and eventually find a job due to his disability. But Liu’s persistence and passion won over Qiu and paved way for other students with disabilities to enter the program. In April, Qiu even opened a “silent bakery” after being inspired by Liu.
Another person who has overcome his disability and triumphed is Wang Zi’an, a blind violinist who was accepted by UK’s prestigious Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in December 2017. Wang lost his sight at birth. Despite his disability, Wang has spent past 13 years pursuing a career in music. While he admits there is pressure and uncertainty, he is still excited about the future. Wang looks forward to learning more music and hopes to study further after completing his graduation in music.
Also being honored is 12-year-old Pan Yingxi, who has cerebral palsy and missed school for many years due to difficulty in walking.
“I used to go to the hospital for rehabilitation almost every day. It did hurt and I cried,” said Yingxi.
In 2013, Yingxi joined the Sunshine Performing Arts chorus group and discovered a bridge to the outside world. As a member of the inclusive group, she learns singing with dozens of other students who are defeating their disabilities with bravery and talent.
According to the UN, today, out of seven billion people in the world, over a billion (approximately 15 percent) live with some form of disability. Out of which over 100 million are children.
According to the National Institute of Education Sciences, there are over five million children with disabilities in China and, in 2015, only 53.5 percent of all disabled children had been placed in mainstream schools.
About 33 percent of children with disabilities do not complete all nine years of compulsory education, according to data from the China Disabled Persons’ Federation.
China has taken steps to change this, as per new regulations enforced in 2017, local governments are required to plan and allocate adequate funds and resources to educate people with disabilities and develop individualized educational plans for students with disabilities. China’s ministry of education also emphasized inclusive education in mainstream schools so that all children can benefit.
To clear the shadow of social prejudice and stereotypes, changes were introduced to the Traditional Chinese Medicine Law in July 2017 empowering qualified blind masseurs and masseuses to enjoy the same rights as sighted people to work in medical institutions.
“For blind people, there are few choices for employment. In China, most blind people work as masseurs,” said Yan Jing, director of Beijing’s Blind Massage Guidance Center.
Li Chunnan is one the many beneficiaries of the revised law. Li, who’s in his 50s, recently secured a job as a masseur at a hospital in Beijing. He was held back for many years not because he was unqualified but because he’s blind. With 30 years of experience in the industry, Li is a licensed practitioner who has already passed many professional exams.
All these people CGTN met have been bravely facing the challenges of life and actively pursuing their dreams. Their actions prove that they are no different from those called “abled.”