The revised Chinese Constitution of 1982 states that ‘the state and society help make arrangements for the work, livelihood and education of the blind, deaf-mutes and other handicapped citizens’ (Article 45). Despite this very little was done until the mid 1980s, almost certainly at the instigation of Deng Pufang, the hemiplegic son of Deng Xiaoping. In 1984 the China Welfare Fund for the Disabled was established, followed by the All China Federation for the Disabled in 1988. Deng Pufang is director of both organizations. Also in 1988, targets and services for people with a disability began to be included in the Five Year Plan. In 1994 a Co-ordination Committee for the Handicapped under the State Council was established and the Law on the Protection of Disabled People was passed.
The first national survey of disability was carried out in 1987, authorized by the State Council. It was found that China had 51,640,000 people with a disability, or approximately 5 per cent of the population. Eighteen per cent of all households contained someone with a disability. It has been suggested that the inclusion criteria were too broad and people were counted who did not necessarily perceive themselves to be disabled. Nonetheless, the numbers are huge and as China’s population ages they will increase. The survey found that only 30 per cent of people with a disability were financially independent, most relying on family support. Only 2.65 per cent were reliant on government aid. Illiteracy is much higher among disabled people (70 per cent as opposed to the national level of 30 per cent). Half of those classified by the government as being ‘in poverty’ have a disability and 20 million people with a disability lack even the basic necessities of food and clothing. One matter of great concern is that some of the causes of disability are avoidable, for instance polio. The government is making great efforts, supported by international agencies, to immunize every child against polio.
The national survey found there were 1.82 million people under the age of fourteen who were deaf, much of which is caused by the inappropriate prescription of antibiotics. Lack of iodine has led to completely avoidable goitre and cretinism in some of the remoter provinces, like Gansu. Some villages are reputed to have no adults of normal intelligence. Since the mid 1980s the government has taken enormous strides in the area of disability but the problems it faces remain serious.
Callaway, Alison (2002). Deaf Children in China. Gallaudet University Press.
Pearson, V. (1995). ‘Health and Responsibility; But Whose?’ In Linda Wong and Stewart MacPherson (eds), Social Change and Social Policy in Contemporary China. Aldershot: Avebury Press.
Pearson, V., Wong, Y.C., and Pierini, J. (2002). ‘The Structure and Content of Social Inclusion; Voices of Young Adults with a Learning Disability in Guangzhou’. Disability and Society 17.4: 365–82.
Pierini, J., Pearson, V. and Wong, Y.C. (2001) ‘Glorious Work; The Employment Situation of Adults with a Learning Disability in Guangzhou’. Disability and Society 16. 2:252–75.
Tian, E.C., Pearson, V., Wang, R.W. and Phillips, M.R. (1994). ‘A Brief History of the Development of Rehabilitation Services in China’. British Journal of Psychiatry 165, Supplement 24:19–27.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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