People are increasingly aware of the various forms of discrimination pervasive in modern society. One of them is ableism – discrimination and prejudice against people with disabilities. In Hong Kong, ableism is of particular concern.
I have had the privilege of working at the Nesbitt Center, a social service organization in Hong Kong that empowers people with disabilities to live independently and defend themselves.
Volunteering here has been an eye-opening experience, and I have noticed our city’s neglect of the disabled community.
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There is a significant shortage of government programs that support people with disabilities. Rehabilitation, vocational training and transport services mainly serve the physically disabled, and the government is failing to expand its services to help the mentally disabled.
Along with this dearth of government initiatives, companies rarely make adjustments to integrate employees with disabilities into the workplace. Full integration into society means getting a suitable job, but many employers are simply not interested in providing a chance for applicants with disabilities.
Ableism has consequences for everyone in society. Workers with disabilities are as valuable as able-bodied employees, and including them can create a more tolerant work environment and transform negative perceptions of disability.
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The Nesbitt Center has opened three cafes to help people with learning disabilities make the transition to professional work, but this is only the first step. Without changing public attitudes, Hong Kong will continue to be a unwelcoming place for people with disabilities.
One of the biggest problems facing Hong Kong people with disabilities is daily sectarianism. Many able-bodied people are not sensitive to the needs of people with disabilities. Thus, there is a lack of understanding regarding physical impairments and learning challenges. Some people will even attack and intimidate people with disabilities.
In a city like Hong Kong, where personal fulfillment and achievement often come first, the disabled community can seem insignificant or – worse yet – an easy target.
Bobo Leung, 55, a wheelchair user who is affected by the lack of barrier-free facilities in Lai Kok Mall, Cheung Sha Wan. The image shows Leung obstructed by steps at the entrance to a restaurant in the mall. 24DEC21 SCMP / Nora Tam
But in such a developed city, disability shouldn’t be a barrier.
Acting now could begin to correct the city’s past failures in supporting its residents with disabilities.
On a larger scale, the government must enact legislation to support them. This involves improving access to affordable housing, employment opportunities, social support and financial security for residents with disabilities.
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Employment and social exclusion are two of the biggest obstacles for this population in Hong Kong. Thus, it is imperative that companies hire employees with disabilities and create work environments tailored to their needs.
Finally, getting rid of intolerance is vital. It starts with educating our young people.
Schools should organize workshops that denounce discrimination and promote compassion for people with physical and mental disabilities. They can also educate students about the damage derogatory language and insensitive comments can cause while teaching students how to support people with disabilities in their communities.
A problem as important as ableism requires an equally important effort to fight.
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Why Are Hong Kong Students So Tired?
Serene Chan Hei-tung, Fukien High School
Hong Kong is well known for its competitive education system and the lack of balance between work and leisure for students. It wears out the young people of this city. As young people are the future pillars of society, this crisis cannot be ignored.
Scientists recommend that people get at least eight hours of sleep a day. However, most Hong Kong students cannot meet this standard. There are countless reasons for this – whether it’s the incessant homework of teachers or the countless exercises in tutorials.
If they were to follow the recommended sleep time, students would not be able to complete their work every night. Thus, they stay up late to study and feel tired the next morning. But this fatigue can interfere with their ability to concentrate and learn in the classroom.
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Some people believe that the early school start time is the reason why students are so exhausted. Thus, they believe that setting a later start time would help students get more rest and, in the long run, benefit their mental health.
The crux of the matter, however, is not in what time the school day should start, but in problematic expectations for success.
Burnout and burnout are common problems for Hong Kong students. Photo: Shutterstock
How will the one hour postponement of the start of the school year relieve the stress of the students? How is it different from encouraging students to sleep an hour later since they can arrive later to school?
The heavy workload remains unchanged and will still require the same time to complete. The root of this problem is the very stressful education system. If this problem is not resolved, all other measures are misleading and empty promises.
The heavy academic workload and stressful learning environment tire students. Of course, if we ignore this, their fatigue will persist.
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As students continue to be encouraged and pressured to sacrifice sleep for their academic pursuits, their deteriorating psychological health should not be overlooked. Mental health issues are one of the biggest challenges facing young people in Hong Kong today.
Broad educational reforms are needed to save students from this dire predicament. In the meantime, I sincerely hope that my peers can find ways to rest more and relieve their stress. Maybe one day we can study and live with energy and happiness.