Disability rights in China

“Disability is Still Very Invisible in China Today”

With support from RWI, a group of 15 researchers recently gathered in Hong Kong for an introductory training course on disability rights and equality.

The training was part of a larger project, managed by Wuhan University Public Interest and Development Law Institute, and supported by RWI, which brings together groups of Chinese researchers from academia, civil society, GONGOs, and government.

One of the research participants, Chen Zhao, has been working for the Chinese disabled people’s organization One Plus One for about four years. We asked her a few questions to find out more.

Why did you join this project?

“The human rights aspect of disability is important because if you only provide services for persons with disabilities, you are only solving the most immediate problems.”

“Focusing on the human rights of persons with disabilities lends dignity to people and it is an encouraging way to cooperate with government agencies to improve its service delivery. The medical model of disability, which neglects the voices of persons with disabilities, patronizes them and doesn’t support them in the long run. The human rights approach also encourages persons with disabilities to participate in deciding and dealing with own affairs.”

What have you gained from participating in this research project?

“My background is in sociology and international development, so for me it was good to get a better understanding of the legal dimensions such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). It’s also been really inspiring to be introduced to a wide network of people with a passion for equality, and I have learned a lot from their knowledge and experiences.”

What are your hopes going forward?

“Disability is still very invisible in China today, and my hope is that the challenges persons with disabilities are facing will become more widely recognised and their rights more mainstreamed across society.”

More about the training

The focus of the training was on the CRPD and the duty to provide reasonable adjustments in education and employment. The training was followed by interactive sessions on research methodology, and a chance to discuss research ideas and plans with each other as well as experts.

“We are supporting multidisciplinary human rights research on disability issues in China with the aim to support the protection of the human rights of people living with disabilities through improved implementation of China’s domestic legislation and international commitments under the UN’s CRPD,” says Merethe Borge MacLeod, the head of RWI’s Beijing office.

MacLeod says it is important that research is multidisciplinary, given multiple aspects of disability protection itself and the need for research to feed into both policy and legislation across a wide variety of fields.

The researchers in the project receive training in the international standards expressed in the UN CRPD, in social science research methodology and human rights-based approaches to ethical research.

Over the course of the project they write papers on various human rights aspects of disability challenges in China. The research itself, and the paper drafting process, is guided through peer discussions and the advice of academic experts. Successful papers are published in an annual publication – Disability Rights Studies in China.

The project strongly supports the disability rights movement’s slogan “Nothing about us without us,” and thus makes sure that people with disabilities are well represented among the group of researchers.

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