Li Bai, a great poet in ancient China, says in his poem "Invitation to Wine": “Since heaven gave the talent, let it be employed!” I would add, “Let the talent of the disabled be employed!”
Despite numerous inspiring stories of disabled people pursuing an encouraging life, people with disabilities are still less likely to be employed both in China and other parts of the world. They are very often deprived of using their talent and their contribution to social progress.
Still, achievements are remarkable
In China, over 85 million people are limited in their daily activities because of a physical or mental disability. Under the administration of over 600,000 disabled people's federations in China, a nationwide service network for persons with disabilities, from the central to the local governments, from city to suburb, has taken shape. During the past five years, five million disabled people have shaken off poverty and three million have learned a vocational skill.
The fourth National Disability Professional Skills Competition at Nanjing International Expo Center, June 11, 2011 (Photos: VCG)
At present, there are various ways for the disabled to become employed. The governments at various levels promote their employment through preferential tax policies by requiring the employers to hire a certain proportion of disabled employees. In rural areas, the governments would also support the disabled to engage in agricultural production.
Opportunities come with high-tech
With the development of the Internet-based industry, more disabled people are opting to be self-employed. The Internet, as a flexible and adaptable tool used to deliver affordable, convenient, and effective services, has enabled them to start their own businesses.
A friend of mine in Chuzhou, Anhui Province, Mr. Ma Rongjun, who is paralyzed from the chest down due to a spinal cord injury (SCI) after an accident, by taking the advantage of instant messaging service, has successfully set up a business of selling rehabilitation appliances via QQ and WeChat groups. He is not only able to support his family but also set a good example for other SCI victims. In short, the Internet will continue to have a profound impact on people with disabilities.
While the prospects are bright, hurdles remain
The education level of the handicapped are comparatively low, so the sustained and steady growth of employment has been restricted. Many handicapped people are less educated on account of barriers including a campus environment not friendly to the disabled and inaccessible public transportation.
Along with the rapid development of the Chinese economy, social welfare and the social security system have undergone enormous changes. In developed regions, however, the willingness to work declines among the handicapped.
Perhaps the reason is the high opportunity cost. If one accepts an employer’s offer, he has to give up the basic living allowance granted by the government, which takes up a whopping 30-50 percent of his income. And not surprisingly, he will eventually choose to be a "NEET"- Not in Education, Employment or Training.
The deaf football team practicing at the football ground, Haikou City, Hannan Province, May 14, 2018
Enacted in 1990, the Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons safeguards the rights of the disabled in China. Stipulated by the law, the third Sunday of May each year is the National Day of Assisting Disabled Persons.
Our country has achieved fruitful results thanks to these awareness campaigns about the rights of the physically and mentally challenged people. By and large, the conditions of disabled employees are getting better all the time.
However, the implicit prejudice against people with disabilities still exists. Although they were legally permitted to drive automobiles eight years ago, there are fears to this day that the disabled would not be able to operate vehicles in case of emergency. Therefore, drivers with disabilities are banned from driving taxis.
The prejudice against the disabled cannot be eliminated overnight; patience is also needed for more comprehensive policies to improve their chances of getting educated and employed. But tangible progress has been made and hopefully, there will be more in the near future.