End Discrimination, Make Mainstream Schools Accessible
May 18, 2013

The amendments to the disability regulations have some positive elements, such as requiring mainstream schools to develop individualized educational plans for students with disabilities. However, the revisions continue to reinforce a parallel system of segregated special education schools and do not remove the obstacles to regular schools for children with disabilities.

Brad Adams, Asia director

(New York) – The Chinese government should demonstrate its commitment to the rights of people with disabilities by announcing on China’s “Help the Disabled Day” that it will remove barriers that prevent children with disabilities from attending mainstream schools, Human Rights Watch said today. “Help the Disabled Day” is Sunday, May 19.

On February 25, the Chinese government announced amendments to the 1994 Regulations of Education of Persons with Disabilities in China (“the 1994 Regulations”) which failed to make adequate progress on mainstreaming children with disabilities into regular schools as required by international law.On March 25, 2013, Human Rights Watch made a submission to the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council with recommendations for improvement on the amendments.

“The amendments to the disability regulations have some positive elements, such as requiring mainstream schools to develop individualized educational plans for students with disabilities,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “However, the revisions continue to reinforce a parallel system of segregated special education schools and do not remove the obstacles to regular schools for children with disabilities.”

Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the amendments fail to clearly stipulate that local governments and schools must provide “reasonable accommodations” to help students overcome barriers related to their disabilities in mainstream schools. The amendments reinforce the current situation in which only students with physical or mild disabilities are allowed to study in mainstream schools, where few or no accommodations are provided to students with disabilities. Other students are effectively denied access to the mainstream education system, as children with disabilities are entitled to access to mainstream education only if they are “able to adapt themselves to study in ordinary classes,” meaningit is the students with disabilities who have to adapt to the education system, not the reverse.

Human Rights Watch said that the government should make it a priority to guarantee that children with disabilities are able to attend mainstream schools by making these schools and the curriculum accessible, instead of prioritizing the building of more special education schools.

Human Rights Watch called on the Chinese government to revise the amendments to bring them in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), a major human rights treaty adopted by China in 2008. Specifically, the new regulations should: state clearly that the Chinese government is committed to “the goal of full inclusion;” define and stipulate “reasonable accommodation” in the regulations in accordance with the CRPD; and remove provisions that allow schools to discriminate against potential students on the basis of their disabilities.

“Reforms should focus on identifying and removing barriers in schools so that people with disabilities are able to access the mainstream education system,” Adams said. “The Chinese government can and should empower disabled children to get an inclusive education.”