Across China: Chinese school adapts bathrooms for disabled student

Zhou Jiajia (pseudonym), a girl born with cerebral palsy who can hardly walk on her own, will start a new semester without worrying about her “big issue”: going to the bathroom.

The 14-year-old suffered a lot from her disease when she was in primary school. She had to use two four-legged crutches to get to the school’s washrooms, which took nearly half an hour, causing her to be late for her classes.

Now, Zhou has graduated and will start seventh grade at Cuigang Middle School in the city of Yangzhou, east China’s Jiangsu Province when the new school year starts across the country on Sept. 1.

Much to her surprise, the school has equipped all of its bathrooms with accessible facilities to welcome her.

“Having considered Zhou’s situation, especially her difficulty in going to the bathroom, we modified every bathroom in the seventh, eighth and ninth grade, in order to give her a more convenient new school life,” said Jiang Xiaomei, vice president of the school.

Jiang added they have also made arrangements to let the girl attend class in a classroom closest to the school’s bathroom.

“I used to deliberately keep myself from eating or drinking too much for fear of using the toilet. Now I don’t have to restrain myself,” Zhou said.

According to Jiang, Cuigang Middle School is among the first batch of pilot schools in Yangzhou that offer integrated education programs for physically disabled students.

Qiu Qingquan, who is in charge of the program at the school, said in addition to the modification of bathrooms, the school teachers will also provide uniform classes for Zhou and other students, in a way to help Zhou adapt to school life.

“We have set up a special education program for her, which includes a rehabilitation class every week,” she said.

Qiu said they would spend around 100,000 yuan (13,970 U.S. dollars) on the program and she has already done much preparation work like interviewing parents of students with special needs and deploying teacher resources.

In her view, education of special students like Zhou is a mission that is difficult yet inevitable, especially when it comes to designing programs and creating a suitable environment for these students’ learning and growing.

China has nearly 85 million physically disabled people and their rights of equal access to education are under the protection of the law. According to a white paper published by the Chinese government in July, there were 666,000 students with disabilities enrolled in the country’s special education programs last year.

Governments of different levels and schools nationwide are also trying to provide the necessary support for disabled students to participate in the college entrance examination, thus improving their education level. From 2012 to 2018, a total of 62,200 disabled students entered colleges, the white paper said.

“Besides achieving teaching goals, we are delighted to see them improve their interpersonal relations and social adaptability. Their smiles and laughter among their peers is all we want,” Qiu said.