People with Disabilities Have the Right to Equal Participation

China Development Brief, No. 52 (Winter 2011)

中文 English

Li Simin highlights a social issue that has received growing attention in China. 

As with other social issues such as education, poverty, and gender, the trend in China’s NGO community has been to see the disadvantaged less as victims and more as social equals who only need a more nurturing environment in order to fulfill their potential.

On December 2, Save the Children (救助儿童会) held a screening at the China Braille Library (中国盲文图书馆), launching, “We Are Different, but We Are All the Same,” a series of public interest documentaries that feature disabled children as the main protagonists.  By recording the lifestyle, work, and study experiences of disabled children, the initiative aims to spread the concept of “different bodies, similar hearts.” It calls for the development of a world that does not discriminate against the disabled.

As an international NGO with deep concerns for children’s well-being, Save the Children has always paid close attention to disadvantaged children, including those with disabilities. This year, on the eve of the “International Day of Persons with Disabilities” (国际残疾人日), Save the Children invited a professional photography team to visit a number of self-help groups for disabled children in Beijing, Chengdu, Hefei and Fuyang. The team was encouraged to explore the lives and work of five disabled children, documenting their stories and experiences through the lens of a camera. This is how “We Are Different, but We Are All the Same” was made.

Of the five protagonists, some, known as “porcelain dolls,” have cerebral palsy or brittle bone disease; others are intellectually or visually impaired.   Despite their physical disabilities and the fact that they face difficulties and obstacles that non-disabled people can hardly imagine, these young people still express a love for life, striving to achieve their dreams just like any other young people.

As one of the organizers of “We Are Different, but We Are All the Same,” Save the Children also seeks to address the current societal obstacles facing people with disabilities. The organization interviewed government officials and expert scholars in order to explore the social, legal, and cultural factors which give rise to these obstacles. They aim to more effectively spread the idea of equal rights for the disabled, and to promote social tolerance and acceptance, which reflects the theme of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities – “Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development.”

“Disability is not a tragedy, but it is an inconvenience. We just have to create a barrier-free environment, to help people overcome the inconveniences brought by disabilities, and we will find that they also can accomplish many things, achieve their goals, and fully and equally integrate into civil society.” During an interview for this documentary, the Executive Vice-President of China’s Association of the Blind (中国盲人协会), Weihong Li said that, in the past, people considered the disabled to be “cripples,” a burden for families and an object of constant care and rescue. As society advanced, people gradually formed a new concept of disability, centered on equality, participation, and sharing. Li believes that disabled people, through their own efforts and with some help from the community, can participate equally in society, to an equal extent as the non-disabled.

At present, China has more than 80 million disabled people, meaning that one in every five families contains a person with disabilities. Yao Han, one of the protagonists of the documentary, from 1+1 Voice Studio of Beijing (北京1+1声音工作室), is one such person. The 23-year-old Han is visually impaired; she is often upset by the strange looks she receives from people around her. “When I was little, I was always performing and acting,” Han said, “but everyone looked at me like I was a monster.” Through her own efforts, Han has been able to realize her dream of completing her college education, and she currently teaches shorthand writing and has a family of her own.

The screening also included a panel discussion, in which the creative staff and several of the film’s protagonists shared their experiences from the filming process. Xingxing Wang, a film crew member and Save the Children’s “Developing Disabled Children and Youth” project coordinator, said that the original purpose of this documentary was to show the active and optimistic side of people with disabilities in order to break down social prejudices.

Prior to the screening, Save the Children used an official microblog, to recall some of the themes of “International Day of Persons with Disabilities,” over the past decade, and to demonstrate the efforts that Save the Children and its partners has put into fostering integration and eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities in recent years. The organization invited about ten microbloggers to watch the documentary.

The series of public interest documentaries was released simultaneously on Youku, Tencent’s public interest channels and China Development Brief.

12月2日, 救助儿童会在中国盲文图书馆举办影片放映会,推出了以残障青少年为主人公的系列公益纪录片《我们不一样,我们都一样》,希望通过真实纪录残障青少年在生活、学习和就业等领域的经历,向公众传播残障人士与非残障人士“身不同,心相同”的理念,呼吁为创造一个对残障人士平等的、无歧视的世界而努力。
作 为系列公益纪录片《我们不一样,我们都一样》的组成部分之一,救助儿童会还针对当前社会中存在的阻碍残障人士发展的各种障碍,采访了相关政府官员、专家学者,以求深度挖掘导致这些障碍的社会、立法、文化及传统观念等方面的原因,更好地向社会公众传播残障人士与非残障人士一样拥有平等权利的理念,促进社会对 残障人士的包容和接纳。以此呼应了今年的国际残疾人日的主题——“共同为所有人创造一个更好的世界,促进残障人士的发展” (Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development.)
“残 疾不是不幸,而是不便。只要给我们创造无障碍的环境,帮助我们克服残障带来的不便,残障人士同样能做好很多事情,能做出成绩,能完全地、平等地融入社会生活。”中国盲人协会常务副主席李伟洪在本片访谈中表示,过去人们把残疾人看成“残废人”,是家庭的负担和照顾、救助的对象。随着社会的进步,人们逐渐形成 了新残障人观,其核心就是平等、参与、共享。李伟洪认为,残障人士完全可以通过自己的努力和社会的帮助,和非残障人士一样平等地参与社会生活。
目前,中国有超过8 000万残障人士,这意味着每5个家庭中就有1名残障人士。纪录片中的主人公之一、来自北京1+1声音工作室的韩瑶是这个庞大群体中的一员。今年23岁 的韩瑶是一名视力障碍人士,来自周围人的异样眼光曾使她非常苦恼,“小时候我一直在表演,在演戏。”韩瑶说,那时总觉得“每一个眼光都觉得我是怪物”。逐 渐地,韩瑶通过自身的努力,完成了大学学业,实现了自己的梦想。如今,她已经成长为一名速录教师并拥有了自己幸福的家庭。
放 映会上,影片中的部分主人公和主创人员与观众见面,畅谈了各自在影片拍摄中的体会。摄制组成员、救助儿童会“残障儿童和青少年发展”项目负责人王星星说, 拍摄这部记录片的初衷是希望通过展现残障人士积极乐观向上的一面,打破社会上对残障人士的一些偏见,告诉大家残障人士同样可以拥有平等参与社会生活权利和能力。
《我们不一样,我们都一样》系列公益纪录片在优酷网(救助儿童会)、腾讯公益频道(、以及《中国发展简报》( newsreeview.php?id=32)上同步发布。

CDB Contributing Writer

Translated by Claudia Vernotti

Reviewed by Phil Rogers

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