China's disabled face discrimination in finding work

BEIJING: While the plight of the disabled in China has improved significantly over the years, many still face discrimination at work.

The lack of job opportunities and job discrimination are cited as the main challenges faced by the disabled in China.

There is an estimated 83 million disabled yet their unemployment rate in 2010 stood at 8.6 percent, twice as high as the national average.

Twenty-seven-year-old Song Yichuan is paralyzed from the waist down after an accident a few years ago.

A talented singer and songwriter, Song's biggest wish is to write a song that everyone will listen to and fall in love with.

But achieving his dream seems like an uphill battle.

"No matter how good and musically-talented I am, and no matter how the audiences love me, they tell me there are practical considerations of moving me around. It's not convenient for me to fly in a plane or even ride in a bus. They even tell me it would be so much better if my condition is not so bad and if I could walk with a walking stick," said Song.

Thirty-two-year-old Xiong Yan is also familiar with work discrimination.

She lost both her arms after being electrocuted when she was merely two.

She now relies on her feet to get things, whether it's in writing, or picking up a book - moves that often earned uncomfortable looks from her colleagues.

Gao Yanqiu, a communications manager at Handicap International, said: "The disabled faces discrimination at work due to society's lack of understanding and knowledge about them. It's easy for them to be marginalized, and job opportunities are hard to come by."

Given the widespread discrimination faced by the disabled, many have argued that the government should take the lead not just in hiring but also in allocating and even reserving certain jobs for the disabled.

The government has made it mandatory for all government departments and institutions to employ at least 1.5 per cent disabled people among its workforce.

But this has seldom been followed, and the situation is even worst in the private sector.

Even though the disabled can sue employers for discrimination, this has seldom been practiced.

Like most disabled, Xiong Yan's biggest wish is to be accepted for who she is.

"It's very simple. I wish that people won't see me as different. We're all similar. If everyone else is relaxed, I will be relaxed. If I am relaxed you'd also be relaxed," said Xiong.

- CNA/fa

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