Equal Access to Justice for Persons with Disabilities in China

Dec 2, 2016

Persons with disabilities in China are often faced with challenging realities when seeking judicial protection to realize their basic rights, illuminated in a new report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in China, ahead of the 2016 International Day of Persons with Disabilities, celebrated annually on 3 December.

“2016 is not only the one year anniversary of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals; it is also the 10 year anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It’s timely to assess China’s progress in providing an inclusive and accessible society for its 85 million Persons with Disabilities,” said Nicholas Rosellini, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, China.

Against the background of judicial progress shown in the Chinese government’s recent White Paper ‘New Progress in the Judicial Protection of Human Rights in China’, UNDP’s report ‘Equal Access to Justice for Persons with Disabilities in China’ explores the extent to which persons with disabilities in China can effectively navigate the judicial system.

The study focuses on the barriers faced by persons with disabilities in accessing justice. It examines both the supply of legal services and the legal demand of persons with disabilities. Importantly, the study spoke to the subjective experiences of persons with disabilities in all aspects of judicial justice, from access to legal information, awareness of legal aid, to the use of legal services, taking legal action and the ability to resolve legal disputes.

One of the main challenges faced by persons with disabilities is the unaffordability of available legal services, and the general lack of knowledge about free legal aid services. In the study, 78% of respondents indicated that they would not choose paid legal services mostly because they cannot afford it. At the same time, over half of the respondents did not know that the national legal aid scheme covers people living with defined “economic difficulties”. The lack of accessible information about laws and legal services has contributed to such a gap.

Moreover, continuous social discrimination and prejudice that all persons with disabilities face critically restricts their ability to navigate the judicial system effectively and also undermines their confidence. The study found that most respondents attributed their challenges in accessing justice to “low level of education among persons with disabilities”, blaming themselves rather than external factors for the disadvantages they live with.

The limited knowledge and awareness about disability and equality among service providers have also hindered effective service provision for persons with disabilities, as manifested by a lawyer’s reaction to a client with visual impairment who fell off the subway platform - “You are blind, why did you even go out?” It is therefore crucial to remove the social stigma and enhance legal empowerment for persons with disabilities.   

The report was launched at a special event, “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want”, commemorating 2016 International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The event was organized by the UN Disability Subgroup, with special support of the UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) Taskforce in China (ILO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, and UNRCO). UNDP partnered with Wuhan University Public Interest and Development Law Institute and Wuhan East-Lake Institute for Social Advancement to produce the report.

The report and today’s special event serves as a call for joint efforts towards the goal of an inclusive, accessible, and discrimination-free society for persons with disabilities.

 

Contact information

Ms. ZHANG Wei, Chief Communications Officer, and UNDP China Tel: +8610 8532 0715, Email: wei.zhang@undp.org

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