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BEIJING (Reuters) - China has failed to provide equal access to education for children with disabilities, leaving nearly 40 percent of its disabled population illiterate, a U.S.-based human rights watchdog said on Tuesday.
Interviews with more than 60 disabled children and their parents show that schools in China deny such students admission, pressure them to leave and provide no appropriate classroom accommodation to help overcome their disabilities, Human Rights Watch said in a report.
"Children with disabilities have the right to attend regular schools like all other children, and are entitled to support for their particular learning needs," said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
China, which has at least 83 million people with disabilities, is working on a draft regulation to give sufferers the right to an education. Attitudes to the disabled are slowly changing, especially after China hosted the Paralympic Games in 2008.
But people with disabilities still suffer from discrimination, in part because of the social stigma engendered by a government that once barred people with physical or mental disabilities from marrying or giving birth in some provinces.
China has guidelines advising higher education institutes to bar students with what are referred to as certain physical and mental "defects", Human Rights Watch said.
About 28 percent of China's disabled children do not receive compulsory basic education, the group says.
Cheng Yuan, a disability rights activist in Nanjing, told Reuters that 70 percent of children with disabilities were forced to attend mainstream schools.
"Even if they are sitting in the classroom, they are not getting the education they deserve," Cheng said.
"The government has claimed that every five years, there will be a development program for people with disabilities. But according to the previous outlines, they've never been implemented."
Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee, Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Clarence Fernandez