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China discriminates against disabled children, report says

Many Chinese children with disabilities must find alternative means to an education. China doesn't allow regular schooling to children with disabilities unless they prove they can adapt in a normal school environment. 

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A blind child reads a braille book at a special school for blind children in Fuzhou in southeast China's Fujian province in October

AP/File

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More than a quarter of Chinese children with disabilities don't get to go to school, while many of those who do are blocked from mainstream institutions or taught by untrained teachers, a human rights group said.

The report released Tuesday by New York-based Human Rights Watch said Chinese students with disabilities are denied access to regular schools unless they can prove they can adapt to the schools' physical and learning environment, and that accommodations for such students are "little to none."

In one example, the group said a mother went to school several times a day to carry her child up and down stairs because the restroom was on a different floor from the classroom.

The report sheds light on how China's burgeoning problem of social inequality – even in education – applies to people with disabilities. In China, there is only a nascent public awareness of the issues that people with disabilities face.

Prejudice and social stigma run high in this deeply competitive society, driving many parents to abandon children with disabilities to China's chronically underfunded state orphanage system.

Just days before the Human Rights Watch report was released, China's Education Ministry issued its own report on the same topic.

The ministry's report said that 28 percent of Chinese children with disabilities are not enrolled in China's compulsory nine-year education. But it said the 72 percent enrollment rate represented a jump of nearly 10 percentage points from 2008, and that an increasing number of disabled students were in regular schools with proper accommodations.

Maya Wang, a researcher for the rights group, said the ministry's report failed to show how it was making mainstream schools more accessible to disabled students, as the government is obligated to do under an international treaty on the rights of disabled people that Beijing ratified in 2008.

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