The “Object of Welfare” or “Subject of Rights”?--The social disability awareness reflected by International Day of Persons with Disabilities and National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities

来源:有人杂志   作者:一加一   2015.05.04 16:31  浏览882
摘要:To arouse the public's attention to disabled groups, in 1976 the UN General Assembly declared 1981 the “International Year of Persons with Disabilities.” In October 1992 the forty-seventh session of the General Assembly adopted a resolution to make December 3rd “International Day of Persons with Disabilities.” Since 1996, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Disabled has established a new theme each year for the International Day of Persons, and countries and regions around the world implement this theme by publicizing and advocating the work and activities of the disabled.

To arouse the public's attention to disabled groups, in 1976 the UN General Assembly declared 1981 the “International Year of Persons with Disabilities.” In October 1992 the forty-seventh session of the General Assembly adopted a resolution to make December 3rd “International Day of Persons with Disabilities.” Since 1996, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Disabled has established a new theme each year for the International Day of Persons, and countries and regions around the world implement this theme by publicizing and advocating the work and activities of the disabled.

On December 28th, 1990, China adopted the People with Disabilities Act which came into effect on May 15th, 1991. Article 48 provided that the third Sunday of every May would be "National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities." The “National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities” activity started in 1991, and the corresponding theme is determined every year. The theme and slogan of “National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities” is issued by the working committee for the persons with disabilities in State Council, the Central Propaganda Department, the Central Civilization Office, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, China Federation of the Disabled and other departments in the form of official documents. For example on March 12, 2014, the working committee for persons with disabilities in State Council and other departments jointly issued Notice on Carrying out the twenty-fourth National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities Activity [2014 1], which provided the theme and slogan of the 2014 National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities. The government in various regions and the CDPF have carried out activities and publicity according to this theme and slogan.

The Theoretical Basis and Evaluation Criteria

(1) The theoretical basis for research:

Opinions and ideas for the handicapped and disabled people in society can be divided into two modes; the medical mode and the social mode. This is also the theoretical basis to analyze social awareness of disabilities.

The medical mode of disability holds that the “disability” problem is a medical and personal problem, and people with disabilities are a passive and dependent group which needs to be “cured” and relieved. They can't contribute to society in a meaningful way, and individuals should be responsible for their own disabilities and handicaps. Treatment for the disabled is mainly care, protection and help. Through treatment and rehabilitation we try to help the disabled rebuild their body functions and enable them to adapt to the “normal social mechanism.” For humane considerations, society regards persons with disabilities as objects of welfare and charity, improving their living conditions through relief and charity.

The social mode of disability, also known as the rights mode of disabled people, holds that the main difficulty confronting the disabled is not the disability itself, but the one caused by social exclusion and isolation. These are caused by both the unhealthy “disability” concept and social policy. The disabled also enjoy basic human rights, they are not only social participants but should also enjoy all kinds of rights. Our country's laws clearly stipulate that disabled people enjoy rights in education, employment, election, transportation, culture, and life.

(2) Evaluation criteria and indicators:

According to the criteria of the Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the relevant content of the themes of International Day of Persons with Disabilities and National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities, the author will examine the social awareness of disability from the following three indicators:

1.The role relationship indicator, namely to regard persons with disabilities as subjects of rights, actions and activities.

2.The principle indicator, which is to analyze whether the various themes embody or reflect one of the following principles: respect for inherent dignity and individual autonomy; non-discrimination; full and effective participation and integration in society; respect for differences and acceptance of persons with disabilities as members of the diversity of humanity; equal opportunities; and accessibilities. From the content of various themes, there is no focus on children and women; therefore, the following analysis will not dwell on these two principles.

3.The content indicator, namely, which aspect is the content of the themes about? Rights, social integration, accessibilities, employment, etc?

(1)Analysis of the role relationship of persons with disabilities in the themes of the day

I will first examine the names of the two festivals. International Day of Persons with Disabilities emphasizes that this is a day for the disabled and regards them as objects to organize, participate in, and enjoy, while the National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities emphasizes that people throughout the country unite together to help the disabled, who are regarded as the object of relief and welfare. From the name of the latter, people with disabilities are thought to be passive and weak.

Secondly, let's look at the role relationships in the theme of the calendar year in International Day of Persons with Disabilities. First, we find out that among the 18 themes, only the 2007 theme regarded persons as passive objects, which accounted for 5.56% of the total themes. In 2007, the world financial crisis broke out, and unemployment became an important problem. Perhaps it is based on this consideration that the theme was “Providing Decent Work for Persons with Disabilities.” There are four themes emphasizing the subject role of persons with disabilities, accounting for 22.22%, in 1997, 2003, 2004, and 2005. For example, in 2003, the theme was “Our Voice,” emphasizing that we should make our own voices heard. Thirdly, the themes with no clear emphasis on the role of persons with disabilities are the most with a total of 13, accounting for 72.22%. This kind of theme is divided into 2 categories. One concerns the conditions of persons with disabilities and includes a total of 4 years. In 1997 it focused on the problem of poverty of persons with disabilities. In 1998, it was “Art, Culture and Independent life." In 2002, it was “Independent Living and Sustainable Livelihoods." In 2006, it paid attention to the information accessibility. The second category emphasized that disabled and normal people are the same and both enjoy common human rights. There are a total of 9 such themes, for example, the 2003 theme stresses “Breaking down Barriers, Opening the Doors to Build an Inclusive and Developed Society.” In recent years, the themes of International Day of Persons with Disabilities emphasized inclusion and integrity and have promoted the significance of eliminating the “label” tendency.

Table 1, the themes of International Day of Persons with Disabilities (from 1996 to 2013)

Year

Chinese

1996

Poverty and Disability

1997

Rights of Persons with Disabilities—to Build Public Dialogue

1998

Art, Culture and Independent Life

1999

Accessibilities for All in the New Millennium

2000

Information Technology Serves for All

2001

Total Sharing and Total Equality: Calling for New Methods for Estimating Progress and Evaluating Achievements

2002

Independent Living and Sustainable Livelihoods

2003

Our Voice

2004

Without Our Participation, Decisions Concerning Us Can’t be Made

2005

Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Participating in the Development

2006

Information Accessibility

2007

Providing Decent Work for Persons with Disabilities

2008

Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Everyone Enjoys Dignity and Fairness

2009

To Achieve the Millennium Development Goal for All: Bestowing Rights to Persons with Disabilities and the Communities They Live in around the World

2010

To Make the Millennium Development Goal More Inclusive: Increase the Strength of Persons with Disabilities and the Communities They Live in around the World

2011

Everyone Enjoys the Beautiful World: Promoting the Integration of Persons with Disabilities

2012

Eliminating All Obstacles: to Build an Inclusive and Accessible World for All

2013

Break the Barriers, and Open the Door: to Build an Inclusive and Developing Society

There are a total of 24 themes of National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities from 1991 to 2014. From the contents of the themes over the years, no theme regards persons with disabilities in an active position. The themes regarding persons with disabilities as passive objects needing help are the most, a total of 15, accounting for 62.5%. All these topics are linked with such words as love, support, help, care, and help for persons with disabilities, and putting people with disabilities in a vulnerable, passive, and miserable position. At the same time there are 9 themes with no obvious emphasis on the role of disabled people, accounting for 37.5%, which mainly calls to pay attention to and develop the cause of persons with disabilities and to protect the rights and interests of persons with disabilities. From the themes it's impossible to distinguish whether persons are regarded as objects of social welfare. For example, in 1991, the theme was “To Promote People with Disabilities Act of People's Republic of China” and the theme of 2001 was “To Publicize and Implement Protection Law, to Join Hands with the New Century.” However, from the slogans over the years, all of them regard persons with disabilities as subjects to accept help. In 2011, the theme was “To the Livelihood, Safeguard the Rights of the Disabled,” whose propaganda slogans included “To Make the Sunshine of Love Illuminate Every Soul of the Disabled;” “To Understand, Respect, Care and Help the disabled, to Support the Cause of the Disabled;” “To Send Warmth to Every Household of Persons with Disabilities in Poverty;” “To Support and Help the Disabled, Both You and Me,” and “To Provide Security and Services, Concern for the Disabled in Poverty in Rural Areas,” etc. The themes and slogans that National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities tries to show are a warm and festive atmosphere for helping the disabled and China's noble morality.

Table 2, the themes of National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities over the years (from 1991 to 2014)

Year

Theme

1991

To Promote People with Disabilities Act of the People’s Republic of China

1992

To Walk into the House of Every Disabled Person

1993

To Help Persons with Disabilities and Grow with Them

1994

We are Together—To Show Our Love to the Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled

1995

One Support One to Send out Warmth

1996

To Prevent Disabilities and Strengthen Health

1997

To Help Persons with Disabilities and Self-Improvement

1998

Poverty Relief

1999

Accessibilities and Vision First

2000

Volunteers to Help the Disabled

2001

To Promote and Implement People with Disabilities Act of People’s Republic of China, and to walk into the New Century Together

2002

To Pay Attention to the Work of the Grass-root People with Disabilities, and Safeguard the Basic Living of Them

2003

To Develop the Cause for Persons with Disabilities and Strive for a Moderately Prosperous Society

2004

To Love My Siblings and Help People with Disabilities in Poverty

2005

Equality and Sharing, to Promote Employment of People with Disabilities

2006

True Understanding and Sincere Care

2007

To Safeguard Interests and Rights of the Disabled to Build a Harmonious Society

2008

To Hold the Disabled by Hand to Walk into the Paralympics Games

2009

To Care for Disabled Children and Develop Special Education

2010

To Care and Help People with Disabilities in Poverty in Rural Areas

2011

To Improve the Livelihood of the Disabled and Safeguard Their Rights and Interests

2012

To Strengthen Cultural Services for the Disabled and Safeguard Their Cultural Rights and Interests

2013

To Help and Support People with Disabilities in Poverty

2014

To Care and Help the Disabled to Realize the Dream of Building a Great China

(2) Analysis of the rights principle of the themes of the festival

Themes which put the disabled in a passive position don't embody the basic principles of the equal rights. For example, the theme of 2007 “To Provide Decent Work for the Disabled” did not reflect basic principles of equality; the theme of “Poverty and Disability” in 1996 did not reflect these principles either. However, there were 18 themes which embodied and emphasized these rights and principles, accounting for 88.89%. Specifically, two themes emphasized participating and integrating into society: "to build public dialogue" in 1997 and "to participate in development" in 2005. There were also two themes emphasizing accessibility: “Accessibility for All in the New Millennium” in 1999 and “Information Accessibility” in 2006. The theme of 2000 emphasized inclusiveness and embodied the principle of non discrimination.

There were 5 themes reflecting “To Respect Inherent Dignity and Individual Autonomy”. These themes emphasized independent living and the personal autonomy of persons with disabilities to make their own decisions. For example, the theme of “Independent Living and Sustainable Livelihoods” in 2002 and the theme of “Without Our Participation, the Decision Made is not Concerned with Us” in 2004. However, the themes which embody and emphasize the equality of opportunity are the most, totaling 6 and accounting for one-third of the total. These themes often link with such key words as sharing, co-construction, equality, all people and so on, fully embodying the principle of equality of opportunity, including, for example, the theme of “To Build an Inclusive and Developing Society” in 2003.

The theme of “Accessibility and Vision First” in 1999 emphasized the basic principle of accessibility. The theme of 2009 emphasized the development of special education, the theme of 2011 emphasized improving the livelihood of the disabled people, and the theme of 2012 emphasized cultural life. To a certain degree, these three themes reflect the principle of participation and integration in society. Moreover, there are four themes embodying the principle of equal opportunity: the theme of 2001, “To Publicize and Implement People with Disabilities Act of People's Republic of China, to Walk into the New Century Hand in Hand;” the theme of “To Develop the Cause for the Disabled to Build a Moderately Prosperous Society” in 2003; the theme of “Equality and Sharing, to Promote the Employment of Persons with Disabilities” in 2005, and the theme of “To Safeguard the rights and interests of the disabled to build a harmonious society” in 2007. Overall, a total of 17 themes did not embody nor reflect the principle of related equality, accounting for 70.83% of the total. I believe the National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities doesn't reflect the basic principles in the Convention of The rights of Persons with Disabilities.

To Respect Inherent Dignity and Individual Autonomy

Equality of Opportunities

Accessibilities

To Participate and Integrate into the Society

Non-discrimination

No embodiment

Totality

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

5

6

2

2

1

2

18

National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities

4

1

3

17

24

In summary, only one of the themes of International Day of Persons with Disabilities regarded persons with disabilities as a passive object receiving welfare, and the vast majority of them embodied equality of rights and respect for inherent dignity and individual autonomy, including the freedom to make one's own choice, the basic principles of individual independence, non-discrimination, fully and effectively participating and integrating into the society, equality of opportunity, and accessibility. Most of the themes advocated social awareness of the rights and interests of the disabled and promoted social understanding from the macro level to promote social awareness of disability and achieving equal rights for persons with disabilities. It can be said that the themes of International Day of Persons with Disabilities over the years, especially those in recent years, show the perspective of international society on advocating for the issue of disability and persons with disabilities from the rights perspective.

However, over the years, most of the themes of National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities regard the disabled as passive objects of social welfare. Only a few themes embodied the principles of equal rights to equal opportunities, full participation and integration into society, and accessibility. From the contents of the themes there is less advocating social awareness of equality for the disabled from the macro level, but more advocating for help for persons with disabilities and to help poor people with disabilities. The themes of National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities demonstrate China's standpoint of establishing the festival to provide practical help and support for the majority of disabled people, to reflect the life of persons with disabilities vividly through the full mobilization of public media and to use a variety of media to vigorously promote the humanitarian in the society, to publicize hot issues of disabled people, and to create an atmosphere and environment which is conducive to the sustainable development of the cause of disabled people. From this point of view, the themes of National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities regard disabilities and persons with disabilities mainly from a medical perspective.

The social International Day of Persons with Disabilities and National Day for Helping Persons with Disabilities show obvious differences in awareness and attitudes between China and the international community. The specific reasons for the differences are unclear. As a researcher in the disability rights movement, I expect the international community to view the issue of disability and persons with disabilities more from the perspective of equal rights, to improve the living conditions of disabled people, and to safeguard the realization of the rights to life, education, and employment of the persons with disabilities.

Editor's note: This article is an excerpt, Please visit the official website of People magazine www.youren.org.cn to read the whole passage.

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