China is increasing its assistance for people with disabilities taking the national college entrance examination, or gaokao.
Examining bodies across the country should offer reasonable accommodations to test takers who have disabilities on the basis of their specific needs, according to regulations released on Friday by the Ministry of Education and the China Disabled Persons' Federation.
Starting this year, test takers with disabilities can enter examination halls ahead of time, and the halls will have specialised staff, such as sign language interpreters, in place to offer assistance.
"The regulations were released to ensure that people with disabilities can have convenient and equal access to the exams," the ministry said.
Last year marked the first time that blind and visually impaired people were officially allowed to take the gaokao, with the ministry releasing a notice last April stipulating that examining bodies should provide necessary assistance and tools to enable such people to take the test.
This year, the stipulations were extended to cover the needs of more people with disabilities.
Blind and visually impaired people should be provided with exam papers in large-sized characters or papers printed in Braille. They are also allowed to take devices such as a Braille pen, writing board, drawing tools, Braille typewriters and even desk lamps and magnifying glasses into the examination hall.
People with hearing disabilities can bring hearing aid devices and can be exempted from the listening section of the English tests if they get permission in advance.
Longer test time
Those with physical disabilities can use wheelchairs and crutches, and can have a longer test time if they have difficulties with writing.
"This is the first time that China has, from the national level, drawn up solutions to solve problems that people with disabilities have in taking the gaokao," the ministry said. "We believe the regulations will better serve their needs and ensure their rights."
Song Song, a researcher with the Enable Disabilities Studies Institute, a Beijing-based think tank on disabilities, welcomed the new regulations.
"This group of people has been waiting for a long time," said Song, who has physical disabilities himself. "Without a doubt, it is great progress."
Song said that he is looking forward to the implementation of the regulations and hoped examining bodies across the country will adopt a flexible approach.
"In fact, many different and specific needs may arise in the gaokao for people with disabilities, not limited to those listed in the regulations," he said. "I hope all of their needs, within a reasonable range, can be met."