For 45-year-old Li Jinsheng, who’s visually impaired, it has been a long struggle to obtain permission to sit an exam that would put him on the road to fulfilling his dream of a career in law.
Now he has finally won an eleventh hour nod to sit next year’s National College Entrance Examination in China. He now hopes his battle will start a national discussion on the subject of the rights of China’s disabled to an education.
Li recalled that at one point an examination authority official from Zhumadian city, Henan province, refused his application to sit the entrance exam because the test papers were not available in Braille.
“We’re not letting you register because we’re trying to be responsible for you,” the official reportedly had told Li, according to Xinhua.
Sadly, this was not Li’s first brush with the often frustrating bureaucracy of China’s many provinces. Around 2002, Li struggled for 15 months to get permission for a self-study examination in traditional Chinese medicine. Li’s stance on education for the disabled even earned him an audience with Deng Pufang, the paraplegic son of the late Deng Xiaoping, who complimented Li’s bravery.
“I brought some steamed buns, slept on the sidewalk, and talked to them (the authorities) everyday, finally they let me register,” Li said.
The authorities gave in, and Li became the first blind person in Zhengzhou, Henan province to take an official exam. He passed the test, but China stopped recognising degrees in eastern medicine in 2005.
“This time, I just wanted them to let me register, I can figure out the rest myself. But they wouldn’t even let me do that.”
Like most blind people in China, Li doesn’t have many options when it comes to job opportunities; the blind either become masseurs or study music.
“I’m a masseur now but I have bigger dreams,” he said. Li is interested in pursuing law.
The group Human Rights Watch says 15 per cent of China’s population is disabled, while China maintains the number is at about 6.5 per cent.
According to Jinan Daily, Zhu Qingyi, a blind student from Yintai, Shandong, successfully participated in an MBA examination in 2006 after Shandong University provided him with four proctors, one to read the questions, one to record his answers, one to supervise the test, and one who recorded the whole test.
But because of insufficient measures and lack of facilities for the disabled, Zhu is amongst only a handful of people who have ever had the chance to take higher education tests.
“There’s a subconscious discrimination of disabled people in China, that’s why even when China has provisions that protect the rights of disabled people, it’s very difficult to implement the laws,” said Huang Rui, a lawyer at the Henan Boyang law firm.
“The laws are too vague”, Huang added.
“The laws are loosely there, but there’s no standardised implementation of the laws, leaving the provinces to implement them freely,” Xie Bin, the executive director of Yirenping, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting social justice and public health.
“The government’s failure to provide Li and other blind students with appropriate accommodation so they can take gaokao is a symptom of the larger problem of discrimination against people with disabilities in China’s education system,” Maya Wang, a researcher at the Human Rights Watch, said.
Li plans to continue campaigning for his and rights of other disabled people. He says his anger and disappointment with the situation may even lead him into a civil rights lawsuit.
“If he does sue, his outcome will be bleak.” Huang says, “but he knows that just getting a public discussion about the issue is one small success.”
Source: Education News