While China prides itself in producing high-scoring, gifted students, it is estimated that 40 percent of people with disabilities in China are illiterate. Socioeconomic barriers prevent many children with disabilities from attending school, but even students with disabilities at mainstream or special education schools are at a disadvantage. Students with impaired or limited vision who are placed in mainstream schools aren't provided with magnified printed materials, students with hearing impairments aren’t provided with written notes or sign language instruction, and students with physical disabilities are unable to access classrooms or bathrooms above ground level due to lack of building accommodations. By cutting access to learning in schools, China’s education system restricts the future of many children with disabilities, perpetuating a cycle of discrimination.
In 2008, China ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to “ensure an inclusive education system at all levels,” yet little strategic work has been done to provide full inclusion. Although China built 190 new schools that year for students with disabilities, these measures seem only to reach a select few. Furthermore, problems with educational access also reflect deeper societal attitudes, as exclusion against people with disabilities is rampant in homes, in the workplace, and in all levels of education.
This project explores how students with disabilities navigate the educational system in China, focusing on those in urban environments. What governmental initiatives are being implemented? Are social attitudes towards disability changing? And most importantly, can developing China provide education for everyone?