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Disabled Chinese Remain Most Needy

Xinhua News Agency, September 18, 2013 Adjust font size:

Disabled people remain one of the most needy groups in China with many living below the poverty line, said Zhang Haidi, chairwoman of the China Disabled Persons' Federation here Tuesday.

About 15 million rural disabled people and more than 2.6 million urban disabled are living below the poverty line, Zhang said at the sixth national congress of the China Disabled Persons' Federation.

The average per capita disposable income of disabled people is around half of the country's average level while the disabled have less access to public services in medical, education, employment and transportation, she said.

Also, about 2.8 million rural disabled people do not have a home or live in unsafe houses, the chairwoman said.

A survey by the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, showed that the average per capita income of an urban disabled family stood at 8,700 yuan (US$1,422) annually. The national level was 19,109 yuan. The figure for a rural disabled family was 3,630 yuan, compared with the national level of 5,919 yuan.

About 22.7 percent of the 5,982 disabled people that were surveyed talked about difficulties in getting rehabilitation therapies since more than 55 percent of communities and villages did not offer such services, the survey said.

In the next five years, the federation will push the government to cover the whole disabled population with social security programs and the minimum income scheme, as well as include rehabilitation therapies for the disabled in the medical insurance program, Zhang said.

The federation will also work to improve employment of disabled people by lobbying more public institutions and companies to hire disabled workers and creating jobs suitable for them, she said.

Despite difficulties, the country has made progress in improving disabled people's livelihood over the past five years, Zhang said.

More than 4.8 million rural disabled people have increased their income above the poverty line while 10.7 million rural and urban disabled people have been covered by the minimum income scheme over the past five years.

In addition, about 12 million disabled people have received rehabilitation therapies.

About 380,000 disabled children and teenagers have enrolled in schools, 20,000 of which have studied in high schools and 30,000 in colleges.

Gathering in Beijing to brainstorm on the status of disabled people in the country, delegates told Xinhua their concerns and ideas.

Li Nan from Beijing noted that many restrooms specially designed for the disabled have been reduced to warehouses due to infrequent use.

"In recent years, the construction of facilities for disabled people has been fast developing, but people's low awareness is hindering disabled people's efforts to enter society," Li said.

Wu Zhendong, who manages a voluntary group with Wuhan University of Technology, called for more support for disability-oriented civilian groups as well as more training for the disabled on how to protect their rights.

"The overall educational level of disabled people is not very high, and they are not very familiar with the laws and regulations concerning themselves," Wu said.

Wang Leqiu, head of the Jiangxi Leqiu Rehabilitation Center, stressed the need for professional skills so disabled people can find work. Wang also encouraged them to create their own businesses.

China set up a system for employers to arrange jobs for disabled people in the 1990s. However, it was not well implemented due to various factors including employers' reluctance.

"I sincerely hope that society will give more opportunities to disabled people in order to let them realize their value," Wang said.

He Chuan, who works at the China Braille Publishing House, urged disabled people to better adapt themselves in the information era.

According to He, while more than 10 percent of visually-impaired people in the United States and Japan are able to use a computer and the Internet, only about 60,000 out of 17 million in China can do so.

He stressed that many disabled people are still coping with changes in their daily life and do not have the time and energy to pursue higher-level culture. He also called for legislation in creating a convenient platform for the disabled to get information.

"Without better understanding in society, it will be hard to be a part of it," He said.

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