China helping handicapped enjoy integrated life

An efficient welfare security system and a network of specialized community services have been well established for the handicapped in China.

With special certificates under the welfare regime, it is not necessary for the handicapped to worry about their lives in China, whether they are in a city or a village.

The regime, involving social welfare and life subsidies for the low-income impaired, covers a handicapped population of about 60 million on the Chinese mainland.

Wang Baoping, a 42-year-old woman with congenital hypoplasia in Qingdao, an open coastal city in east China's Shandong Province, used to live a rather harsh life with a laid-off husband and a child of 13 years old.

But now she is provided with a monthly welfare of 790 yuan (95.18 US dollars) and a subsidy of 100 yuan (12.05 US dollars). On holidays, for example, the Chinese lunar new year, she may get an extra 500-600 yuan (60.24-72.29 US dollars) from the local disabled persons' federation and local authorities of civil affairs. And she would make do with the financial support.

Priority has been given to handicapped students in terms of educational aid across China. According to the local disabled persons' federation in Qingdao, handicapped students seeking higher learning may get 2,000 yuan (240.96 US dollars) of subsidy a year and handicapped graduates in poverty, 1,000 yuan (120.48 US dollars) more, from the municipal government.

Serious diseases, natural disasters and accidental injuries used to be major woes against the handicapped and often plunged them into a negative cycle of "physical or mental handicap making them poor, and poverty making them more disabled".

To change the situation, a special aid mechanism has been created. Those holding a handicapped certificate in China may apply for financial aids for any severe diseases and major surgical operations, including cardiac infarction, craniotomy operation, heart operation, amputation and malignant tumor removal.

Another important measure the Chinese government has taken to help improve the living standards of the handicapped is offering more jobs for them.

Wang Xuemei, a limb impaired woman in Qingdao, lost her husband a few years ago. With a middle schooler to support, she desperately needed a stable job. Last year, the local federation for disabled persons spent 5,000 yuan (602.41 US dollars) to help with her bidding for a newspaper stall. Now as a paper peddler, she earns 800 yuan (96.39 US dollars) a month.

All of the above measures, in tandem with some others, including occupational training, asking-for-help paging network, comfortable housing program and free cataract extraction services, have facilitated the handicapped to overcome difficulties in theirdaily life, said Zhang Ying, an official with the China Disabled Persons' Federation.

In addition, a wide range of quality community services have been provided for the handicapped nationwide, Zhang Ying added.

According to data provided by the national disabled persons' federation, among the 60 million handicapped in China, about 20 million live in urban communities. To enrich the recreational activities of the impaired in Chinese cities, local branches of the federation have gradually established exclusive service centers for them in recent few years.

Now songs are often heard in such service centers.

"Besides a chorus, we have a dance team," said a 35-year-old mentally handicapped woman surnamed Jiang at a handicapped service center at Shunyu Road in Jinan, provincial capital of Shandong.

With a space floor of 460 square meters and rehabilitation equipment worth 100,000 yuan (12,048 US dollars), the center has established personal files for all of the 223 handicapped people in its community. In its recreational rooms equipped with piano, performance costumes and drums, there are displayed paintings and Chinese calligraphic art works by the impaired.

"To ensure intellectual satisfaction for the handicapped is our greatest wish," Yang Hongdou, a social worker at the Shunyu Road community, said.

"In the past, the handicapped had a sense of inferiority and lived a relatively boring life," said Yang.

"Now we have our own service center for the impaired, and we offer a full range of activities for them every Monday, Thursday and Friday. This has made them more light-hearted."

Wang Yuling, a 60-year-old retiree, now serves as a volunteer teacher at the community service center for the handicapped. Her regular work includes teaching them how to sing and dance. With her efforts, the chorus at the center has had a repertoire of more than a dozen songs.

Apart from entertainment provision, the center also visits the handicapped's homes regularly and organizes young volunteers to help them surmount living difficulties, said Zhang Lijuan, head of the community federation of disabled persons.

The service center has applied for welfare for Li Jie. He had had no regular income before the center arranged a place for him at the community and helped him find a primary school for his daughter.

Under the aid of the center, Jia Yuzhang launched a timepiece repair stall near his home and has since been able to sustain his family.

Zhang Lijuan said that the center has found jobs for 20-odd handicapped.

The service center was mainly funded by government spending, and also aided by donations.

Concerns for the handicapped from the society also play an important role in the psychological rehabilitation of the vulnerable group.

Sometimes the handicapped are faced with unfair treatment in society. This would result in a sense of inferiority and anxiety and even in depressive illness and mental disorder among them.

"As a matter of fact, care for the hardships of the handicapped is of great help for their psychological rehabilitation," said Li Jiaping, with the provincial federation of disabled persons in Shandong.

Meanwhile, voices have been amplified to call for the establishment of more professional counseling services for the handicapped in China.

As a general practice in developed nations, psychological rehabilitation refers to psychological interference by experts to help heal psychological hurts for handicapped persons through biological, psychological and social measures. It is imperative for the handicapped to participate in social life along with others on an equal footing.

There are psychological rehabilitation centers for impaired children at some provincial- and municipal-level hospitals.

Exclusive psychiatric consulting services have also been provided in some big cities for handicapped adults.

In Beijing, the local psychological rehabilitation agency has recruited psychologists who also have physical disabilities, so as to make the patients feel better and speak out their mind. Over 3,000 handicapped patients have come to the psychological counselors for help in recent few years.

China is training more professionals for the special services to meet demands from the handicapped. A number of universities, including the Xi'an Communications University in northwest China, have established special departments for the purpose.

People's Daily Online ---