For the last 6 months, Inclusion Factory management and our branding partner JungleFish have been working on updating and consolidation the branding for Inclusion Factory. 

While most clients might barely notice the changes, we want to explain the reasons for this step and how it can help us grow.

Formulate the Brand DNA

Everyone has a slightly different understanding about the company/brand they work for. However, to help unify this brand perception and to align on the fundamentals of the brand we needed to identify our brand’s DNA and the core elements, that make this brand unique.

Brand DNA

China Pioneer

Inclusion Factory is one of the first private companies in China that stands at the forefront of a social movement for inclusion. Other than foreign NGOs, the Taicang Inclusion Factory is a wholly Chinese enterprise and firmly rooted in China.

Business-minded

While we subscribe to a higher social purpose, our approach is business-like: we aim to understand our customers and deliver state-of-the-art quality in consulting and production. Other than state-run entities with the objective to facilitate inclusion, the Inclusion Factory is also a working enterprise that has to “earn its keep” – this helps us to better understand our clients. We adhere to industry-standards such as ISO 9002 and employ professional tools and methods such as SAP software and international management principles.

German roots

Founded by a group of German businesspeople, the Inclusion Factory is heavily influenced by a practical and solution-oriented mind-set. While the Inclusion Factory now serves multinational and domestic clients, the German flag colors in our brand identity remind us of our origins.

Better integrate and explain the expanded service offer

Since 2016 Inclusion Factory expanded their scope considerably: in addition to the Inclusion Factory workshop that provides assembly for industrial clients, the Inclusion Advisory (IA) offers consulting services to businesses for inclusion related topics and the Social Inclusion Academy (SIA) conducts seminars & workshop with the goal of educating professionals & the wider society. When these “business units” started in 2017 and 2018 we added logos to identify them but there was no guideline for the whole offering.

One of the key objectives of this branding was therefore, to define how this wider offering can be integrated in all corporate and marketing communication.

The most crucial step before going into design is to define the message: we needed first to understand the offering and then to define it verbally in both Chinese and English. The same tone of voice should be used when introducing one or more of the Inclusion Group entities. This task is of utmost importance. In our past work we found that many times, messaging was recreated each time for a new publication. Different versions co-existed, and it was up to the presenter which one they preferred. The result was work overload and miscommunication. 

With the new branding, we now introduce a clear messaging guideline, as well as a shared motto and objective. This avoids prevents confusion for both, clients and internal team and helps to establish the Inclusion Factory as a brand.

Simpler and clearer messaging and design

Apart from the consolidated messaging we also cleaned the house visually: the color blocks, which were a signature design element in past communication materials are gone as their playfulness conflicted with the increased professionalism of the organization.

Instead of managing 5+ colors, we have only to consider 2 now: a friendly muted green tone and a strong warm gray. This change makes a huge difference in perception, possibly bigger than changing the logo(s) would have made.

Say it with confidence

The typographic concept underwent a major change: a new corporate font with more confidence and character expresses the solidified standing of Inclusion Factory.  

The typesetting is, in general, much larger to highlight the message and also to make texts easier to read for people with visual impairment. On business cards, for example, the names are now set in 15pt font size compared to 8pt font size. Similar changes have been made to our presentation and website.

Growing pains

Changing a company’s branding is never easy and often is met with considerable resistance. New templates must be installed, new rules observed. And why? Because somebody didn’t like a specific color or font? Ideally the new branding not only better reflects who this company now is, but also makes it easier for the company to do business, and to convey its messages.

With the clear and confident communication of the integrated offering, Inclusion Factory can reach more potential clients and bring more People with Disabilities into the labor market.

 

This project is funded by

with design support by

Inclusion Factory successfully obtained the China Social Enterprise Certification, and now we can proudly say that we are a Social Enterprise!

Our company went through a comprehensive assessment consisting of four dimensions: social mission, social stakeholders, value creation, profit distribution, and sustainable development.We reached a high score of 393, which granted us the title of “Excellent Social Enterprise of China”.

 

What is a Social Enterprise?

A social enterprise is a business that aims at solving social issues, such as poverty alleviation, environmental protection, and creating employment opportunities for marginalized groups. The social mission of Inclusion Factory is using employment to promote the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities into the society. The profi earned by social enterprises are used to develop their own business in order to maximize their social influence. Their goal is not to maximize the interests of shareholders.

We often use the “Double bottom line” (fiscal performance, positive social impact) to illustrate the unique value of social enterprises. The relationship between the double bottom line is actually a positive feedback loop. Unlike general social services, social enterprises need to have a clear business model to maintain their operations. At the same time, unlike conventional enterprises, the social objectives of social enterprises are the driving force behind their sustainable development. Therefore, “social objective”and “business model” are indispensable elements for a social enterprise.

 

Background of The Social Enterprise Certification

The Social Enterprise Certification which started its operation in 2015, originated from the China Charity Social Enterprise Certification Centre. It is the first non-governmental and industry-based social enterprise certification organization in China. China Social Enterprise Certification Centre (CSECC) was responsible for the implementation of the specific evaluation. As of January 2020, 283 social enterprises have been identified by them, covering 16 fields, including accessibility services, education, and employment for marginalized groups.

 

Thriving for  “Gold Standard Social Enterprise”

Next step, we will continue to perfect the company’s self-management system, create more and more employment opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, increase the quality of our service for our customers, and reach for the “Gold Standard Social Enterprise” title!

 

Translation is supported by Inktale Shanghai
Reference material :A Practical Guide of Setting Up a Social Enterprise

Echoing the key tasks set out in the State Council’s 14th Five-Year Plan for the Protection and Development of the Disabled. “Helping people with disabilities live better and more dignified lives through productive labour.”

On July 15th and 19th, the ‘2021 Annual On-site Training for Persons with Disabilities program was held at the Inclusion Factory’. This program was hosted by the Civil Affairs Bureau of Taicang, co-hosted by the Taicang Disabled Person’s Federation and undertaken by the Taicang Xincheng Social Work Service Agency.

30 front-line social workers from Taicang attended this program. They have deepened their understanding of equal employment for people with intellectual disabilities by attending interactive workshops, sharing personal opinions and group discussions.

Our next step is to launch a series of career empowerment seminars on different employment models, personal development and incentive methods for employees with intellectual disabilities, and partner and stakeholder management.

This is the first time that we have provided training for the local workers of the Disabled Person’s Federation. Our Inclusive Employment Model origins in Germany, and rooted in China. In the future, we hope that we can share our philosophy and experience with even more enterprises, and together, we can advance the social integration of persons with disabilities in China.

 

Translation is supported by Inktale Shanghai

On July 9th, 2021, the second session of the Inclusion Open Day was successfully held at the Inclusion Factory.

This Open Day event was planned for the family group  members of the Inclusion China Network, which is part of the Beijing Geng Foundation, an organisation that endeavours to help people with disabilities. Through a day of on-site exploration and discussion, they learned about Inclusion Factory’s experience in the field of inclusive employment. Our aim was to facilitate inclusive employment in their respective fields.

During the Open Day, we had the honour to invite the head of Inclusion China Network and 11 of their representatives to Taicang.These experts in the field of intellectual disabilities come from many different cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Hubei, Zhejiang, Ningxia and Anhui. We also invited the families of employees of the Inclusion Factory to exchange ideas with the participants.

 

Into the Inclusion Factory

We led everyone through our factory and introduced various partners as well as their contributions. They are the reason we are here today.

Then everyone learned about our SAP Intelligent Shift Management System and its application to the employment of people with intellectual disabilities. This system helps us solve many pain points in the operation of our factory and helps our employees increase efficiency.

The participants observed the production line up closely, watching the workers carefully assembling on the work platform. They admitted that it was quite different from what they had imagined. Looking at the employees so focused on work, the Open Day participants were all deeply touched.

A Common Goal in Taicang

Wangli, Program Development Manager of Inclusion Factory, showed everyone the application of Work Redesign. She emphasized that what we want to change is not the employees, but the work itself.What’s hard is not work but to change one’s mindset to redesign work.

In the group discussion session, everyone spoke freely and were so focused on learning from each other that they almost missed lunch time.

Q1: How is work being redesigned for people with intellectual disabilities in the bakery?

Mr Dong Feng, chairman of the Inclusion China Project Management Committee: For the bakery project, the employees may not be able to adapt to the taste of the fermentation process. Therefore, we need to transform the facilities. In the ingredient’s preparation process, the measuring cups are modified so that employees can achieve operability.

In addition, we work on accessibility hardware facilities, visual prompt systems, employment counsellors, R&D and transformation of equipment tools, assembly line hygiene, and more.

 

Q2: How can we design a 3-5-year growth plan for employees with intellectual disabilities to help them get employed by the mainstream workplace?

Zhuo Qu, Beijing Rongai Rongle Supportive Employment Project Manager: There is a process of four steps. Start by leaving the house, then attending handcrafting workshops, thirdly trying out integration workplace, and finally mainstream inclusive employment.

In the integration workplace, the working abilities of employees are improved while their professional literacy is enhanced through communication, collaboration, and self-management. At the same time, the collaborative help of enterprises, institutions and parent organizations is needed so that employees have a sense of autonomy to achieve self-advocacy.

 

How would you design it if it were you?

 

The Past and Future of the Inclusion Factory

At the forum in the afternoon, Marina, Director of Training and Development at Inclusion Factory, narrated how the project is completed practically, step by step, from start to finish so that participants could gain an in-depth understanding of our development history, employment situation, accessibility facilities and equipment as well as the operation model.

In the exchange, everyone gained new understanding, ideas and inspirations. It has created new possibilities for the inclusive employment of people with disabilities.

 

Family Group Exchange

 

Finally, Fei Liu, head of the Inclusion China parents’ group, shared with the families of several key employees of the Inclusion Factory the activities and experiences of parents in organising past activities. Through the exchange, the families learned the importance of family support groups, how they brought together families of different people with intellectual disabilities and enabled them to help each other grow together.

After the event, many of those who attended posted pictures on their WeChat Moments and wrote:

We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to realize their abilities,and to live a full participatory life.We look forward to seeing you next time.

 

Translation is supported by Inktale Shanghai

On June 30th, Inclusion Factory held a Disability Equality Awareness Workshop to promote awareness on the integration of the people with disabilities in various cities and industries.  

12 integration promoters gathered in Taicang. They come from as far west as Xinjiang, as far north as Qingdao, and as far east as Shanghai. The farthest participants came from Urumqi, 2,485 miles away.

Some of them are from enterprises preparing to launch disability inclusion groups to integrate the concept of disability inclusion into their corporate culture. Some are from social enterprises that use disability-focused communication methods to serve their clients and enhance the service level for employees with disabilities.

In the workshop, we reflected on the relationship between each person and person with disability.  

What different experiences do persons with disabilities have in transitional, medical, and social model?

What is the mechanism behind this difference? How can we break this impasse?

If you are to design an accessible restaurant, what elements would you put in as the owner?

When it comes to an inclusive society, what changes do we need to make? Everyone thought deeply about these questions.

After a fruitful discussion, now let’s look at the practical side. From idea to action, this is the commitment made to the disability integration by our participants today.

• Equal treatment instead of overtly specialised treatment.

• Remove barriers to people with disabilities in the work environment.

• Acquire more knowledge to help identify and solve the problems of persons with disabilities around them.

• Gather more resources, join hands with the public to gradually optimise the environment for disability integration.

 

Translation is supported by Inktale Shanghai
Our understanding of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is seeing business corporations take social responsibility, for example in protecting the environment and helping the poor and disabled.However, many companies view social responsibility as charity activities and similar projects. These activities and projects are often conducted like a pulse – one time activity with no follow-up. It is difficult to have sustainable impact this way.
Here is one story that exemplifies this.A school in a remote and poor village in the west of China was donated over 1 million yuan by various corporations in order to build many new facilities.   However, no efforts or focus is given to the maintenance over time of these projects so after a while they start deteriorating.Many companies swarm to remote areas, donating money to build schools, seeing it as a branding move. Yet they very rarely consider the long-run considerations, or the real needs of the recipients and the sustainability of their activities.

I ponder over a question frequently. Does CSR equate with doing charity? At last, I found the answer at Alfmeier.

We met Mr. Markus Schwarz, Executive Vice President of Alfmeier Automotive Systems Shanghai, in 2017. Mr. Schwarz was given a tour of our company Inclusion Factory, where he saw more than 30 employees with intellectual disabilities working on processing products in a special workshop. He decided to embark on a CSR partnership with us and outsourced orders to the Inclusion Factory.

Mr. Schwarz then gathered the management team of his company, and they agreed to outsource a certain component in their product for car seats to the Inclusion Factory, so as to support the employment of persons with disabilities.
Due to the special needs of our employees, the manufacturing equipment has to be somewhat automated in order to ensure a smooth and high-efficiency production. For this, Alfmeier formed an international team and provided us with a modified assembly equipment is suitable for our capabilities, and ensures and quality performance.
The team, which was comprised of project managers, internal auditor, and senior quality engineers, were all fully engaged and highly motivated.  With the help of their headquarters in Germany, the team finished the design for the machine provided to us, and shipped it specially from Europe for our new cooperation!  The team members worked together, and overcame the challenges of being in different locations and different time zones. Finally, the equipment was put into operation at the Inclusion Factory in February 2019.
That is why, to me, CSR is neither a checklist of activities nor a set of guidelines. It is most definitely not something that corporations have to accomplish by sacrificing themselves. Rather, CSR is a corporation using its core capabilities to resolve social problems and give everyone the ability to create social values.Many ask, “Should corporations have projects for social responsibility?” In the past, I would show the person asking this question the numerous benefits of fulfilling CSR, but now I answer them with my question, “Do corporations need the human resource and finance departments?”And as corporations surely need human resource and finance, so does CSR should be a part of their daily operations. In fact, CSR is not as complicated as many people would think. We should look at the core capability of a company and see how it can be used to solve the problems in society. Solving a society’s problems is being socially responsible.

Alfmeier Automotive Systems Shanghai was awarded the Taicang Inclusion Factory  Corporate Social Responsibility prize

On the left, Mr. Markus Schwarz, Executive Vice President of Alfmeier Automotive Systems Shanghai – receiving the Inclusion Factory Gold Partner certificate from the Inclusion Factory Chairman of the Board Mr. Thilo Koeppe and Peng Xin, the Inclusion Factory employee working on the Alfmeier project

Alfmeier has now established “social responsibility” as one of its strategies and has committed to engage in more CSR projects in the future.Alfmeier CSR engagement shows us that CSR can and should be part of every corporation daily work and commitments.

Writer:Fores

 

The following article was written by Inclusion Factory’s Board Member and initiator, Mr. Erik Breslein, Managing Director of Zollner Electronics Taicang, and was published in Zollner’s Group Global newsletter.

Erik Breslein

An appeal for social engagement from Erik Breslein, Managing Director of Zollner China. In spite of some resistance, he helped create the Taicang Inclusion Factory, a workplace for People with Intellectual Disabilities. It has been emulated in the meantime.

Dear Readers,

I thought about this for a long time, how I should write such an article: the story of the founding of a workplace for People with Intellectual Disabilities
in China, the first one ever in the country. Eventually I decided not to write technologically and factual for a change and share with you my personal experiences. Why? I’ll tell you at the end of this article.

The Idea

 

Thilo and I have known each other for many years. He was the Chairman of the “TRT Taicang Roundtable”, where German Managing Directors met with the Taicang City Government once a month for an exchange. In 2014, Thilo and I went to dinner after such a meeting, and somehow we both, independent of each other, had had an idea in our heads to found a workplace for People with Disabilities in Taicang.
Both of us had our points of contact with social institutions in our youth. For me it was through an earlier female friend with the Theodor Fliedner charitable foundation in Mülheim an der Ruhr. She was a caregiver there for residential homes for
People with Disabilities. How beautiful was the merrymaking together…

And now?

 

An idea alone is known to be not enough, so Thilo said: “Let’s strew the topic out at the TRT Roundtable, maybe someone wants to join us.” No sooner said than done, we quickly became five. Then came weeks of hours-long meetings together until we had something of a common thread in our first concept
draft. One thing became pretty clear at the beginning: without the support of the local Chinese authorities, we could never pull off such a project.

The path to the Mayor and the Chinese Communist Party

“What do they want…?” was the first response of party officials. Jesicar, a General Manager of a German company in Taicang, and a member of our team, had her hands full as the only Chinese person to impart our idea. But somehow, after several hours-long meetings, the knot broke and the whole thing took off.

They put us into contact with the China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF). There are about 85 million People with Disabilities in China, including, for example, someone who has just 50 percent vision in one eye. Just about 12 percent of these people actually have physical impairments because they need to sit in a wheelchair or require walking aids.

The founding…but where to find the start capital?

The government gave its green light, so nothing else stood in the way of founding the company. The five of us created a so-called Limited company in 2015 with all of us as volunteer members of the Board of Directors. We voted Thilo to be the Chairman of the Board.

But the challenge to source capital was giving us headaches. Jesicar, however, managed to get a subsidy from the Taicang government. Thilo entered into negotiations with KfW Germany to obtain credit worth over 1.7 million Euros. We each took on part of the work, Jesicar and Thilo fought on the legal and financial fronts, while Dietmar and I focused on the setup of production. Steve came in later, and took on training issues and integrated People with Disabilities
into his own company.

 

Inclusion Factory Board Members

Who is the leader?

 

All of us do the job of Member of the Board of Directors on a volunteer basis and without compensation outside of our normal job activities.
So we knew we needed external help for further development of the workplace for the handicapped.
Through an abundance of luck we found Nadav, whose wife studied in Beijing at the time. He was given the post of General Manager, and soon after, Marina, Nadav’s wife, a social worker with vast experience working with People with special needs also joined the team.

Like the rest of our employees, they receive customary market rates of pay. Our employees receive the same monthly wage as do Zollner Taicang employees in accordance with statutory provision and the market average.
We also profited immensely from the experience of Lebenshilfe e. V. in Offenburg. Achim, the Managing Director there, placed some of his employees, who
spent half a year in Taicang and trained Nadav and his team in how to work with People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Inclusion Factory 2015

 

Inclusion Factory 2020

 

And today…

 

…The Taicang Inclusion Factory stands on solid economic ground, thanks in the meantime to donations from fellow Chinese citizens.
Since Head of State Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, called for promotion of cooperation for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities about three years ago, the Taicang Inclusion Factory is seen as a showcase project in the entire country. Thus, just a short time ago, another workplace for the People with Intellectual Disabilities
was founded in its image by by Flex (formally Flextronics) in Zhuhai, Guangdong province.

Flex Mechanical Inclusive Factory in Zhuhai

 

We give about 50 employees a ‘home’, were they able to be awarded several contracts from companies and have also achieved the same level of function and technology as every other international company.

Inclusion Factory Team, 6 years ago.

 

Inclusion Factory Team, 2020

The Corona crisis affected us, too, but I believe we’ll come out of it with just black eye. It was hard for our employees not to be allowed to work during the lock down. The urge was great to once again take up a screwdriver together. Luckily we were able to resume regular operations again in May of 2020.

From my experience with this project I would like to encourage you all:

“Come together and do something good, even when it’s only a small thing!” It makes no difference whether you are engaged in a sports club or volunteer firefighting, or even taking over the weekly shopping for the sweet grandma across the street or something else.

A lifetime’s experience

 

I will be honest, we Directors reached in all phases of setting up of the workplace for the People with Disabilities places where we didn’t have a clue how to continue. Some hurdles seemed too high, and doing it in a foreign country. However: We did it! Together – because we stayed together!

And that is my message: If each and every one of us contributes just a small amount, it is the big picture that counts in the end.

 



Our societies consist of different social groups, each with its unique characteristics. However, it can be observed that in any society there are certain groups whose engagement with their country’s political, economic and social life is more likely to be hindered by numerous barriers. In the context of China, people with disabilities are one of those groups.


“Progress” has long been a keyword within China’s national development strategies, and the advancement of a nation demands a higher level of social inclusion, which is an enabler for people to fully participate in their community and society, regardless of their situation, background and identity. Achieving a higher level of inclusion necessitates joint efforts by the government, the public and civil society. A European Union-sponsored webinar with the purpose of promoting the notion of social inclusion among Chinese NGOs was held on the 28th of August, co-hosted by Oxfam Hong Kong and China Development Brief. The webinar focused on how people with disabilities can be better facilitated to take part in society. The speaker was Ms. Li Hui, a senior social worker with eight years of experience at the Work Accident Rehabilitation Centre (工伤康复中心) in Guangdong Province.


After starting off the webinar with the question “what do you call people with disabilities?”, Li Hui got the participants to look into their behaviour and come to the realisation that in many circumstances, people without disabilities actually view those with disabilities as “abnormal”. She pointed out that this is a misconception. Obtaining an appropriate understanding of disabilities should begin with a comprehensive definition, and Li Hui showed the participants that according to the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Disabled Persons, “disabilities” are defined mainly from a medical perspective.


However, socially speaking, the definition of disabilities has already gone through a series of evolutions. Prior to 1984, people with disabilities in China were most commonly called “Can Fei (残废)”, which literally means disabled and wasted. They were likely to be prevented by their relatives from showing themselves in public spaces, and regarded as a burden by their families. Later on, disabilities were commonly defined with medical terms like “Can Ji (残疾)”, which means disabled and diseased. Disabilities were considered to be curable through medical treatment and rehabilitation, and the definition also stressed that people with disabilities should be positive and strong so they could try to reach the standard of being “normal people” within society. In the present, disabilities are called “Can Zhang (残障)”, meaning disabled and handicapped. This way of defining disabilities implies that loss and barriers to social inclusion are caused by lack of support from social systems. Reducing the barriers within social systems, increasing accessibility in public infrastructure and removing prejudices towards disabled people are of great help to allow those with disabilities to participate equally in the society.


Li Hui’s work pays attention to people who became disabled because of injuries from accidents at work. Used to being ordinary members of society, people with disabilities caused by injuries will inevitably experience a shift in their identity. Li Hui explained that in such cases initially people experience shock, but at this stage they only think they are injured and will recover again in the future. Later they gradually come to realise that the injury is severe and has caused many changes in their life, including in their capabilities and sometimes even appearance. They may be tempted to think of themselves as “incomplete”, because many of them have lost a part of their body or some physical capability. When they start to accept the reality of their disabilities, they focus on the doctors’ diagnoses and use them to re-define themselves. “At this stage, people’s identity can be totally based on their injuries, and when they communicate with other people with disabilities they tend to refer to themselves using medical terms for their injuries,” Li Hui said. “I often wonder what a hard process they must have gone through! As a person without a disability, I cannot fully understand it. But as a social worker who serves people with disabilities caused by accidents at work, it is important to learn this process and try to think in their shoes.”


But re-identifying or re-defining themselves as disabled is not the end of the story. What comes after is all kinds of labels and stigma attached to being “disabled”, and that is what makes Li Hui most concerned. “The stigma towards disabled people has severely affected many who were not born with disabilities, and it is something that we need to frequently confront in our daily work.” Discrimination towards people with disabilities has already been addressed by institutions such as the UN through international agreements or treaties, but regulations cannot fundamentally abolish discrimination. Li Hui believes that to a large extent, perceptions of people with disabilities are socially and culturally-framed misunderstandings. When they are accompanied by insufficient public infrastructure, these misunderstandings will undoubtedly cause not only inconvenience and mental suffering for the disabled, but also existing discriminatory thoughts to become stronger. Li Hui listed a few examples from real life: “parents whose children are disabled would complain to us that every time they take them out to the street, people would stare at them. Some of our clients told us that when they went to the bank, where counters are very high, they suggested to the staff that the bank should have counters that are friendly to people with disabilities, but most of the time they would be turned down, which is very upsetting.”


As Li Hui explains, “all kinds of standards exist to help people to fit in to society, yet many of them are set up without much consideration for the needs of people with disabilities. People whose disabilities are caused by accidents at work have already gone through very traumatic experiences, and now the alleged “standards” of the society are something that they find nearly impossible to reach, and stop them from participating in society. Moreover the public, and even their families and friends, would use those standards to judge them, because they have failed to reach them and therefore are different from most of us. People close to the disabled will also suffer from these judgements. This is unfair.”


Based on her work experience serving people with disabilities, Li Hui actively appealed for equal treatment of the disabled. “They are different from us,” Li Hui said, “but we are in fact all different from each other. People with disabilities hope that when people look at them what they see is not merely their disability, but also things like their personalities, achievements and hobbies. When people ask me ‘how should I treat people with disabilities? What should I do?’ I always say “treat them the way you want to be treated and do what you hope other people would do for you”. They want a decent life just as much as you and me.”


In practice, the path towards including individuals with disabilities in society is challenging, because it is intertwined with several factors. Li Hui has identified three prominent factors that have produced difficulties for disabled people to engage and re-engage with the wider society.


The social factor sets the external environment in which individuals with disabilities live, and so far the environment is not friendly enough in China. For example, most of the infrastructure for transportation, work places, restaurants and schools is only designed for citizens without disabilities, and this has directly prevented people with disabilities from leaving the home and being present in these public spaces. The existing welfare system for people with disabilities also has many issues. The fundamental problem is that the main focus of the system is on “disabilities” instead of “people”. Government policies acknowledge that people with disabilities need support, but do not recognise that being disabled does not mean losing all ability to participate and contribute to society. Current policies provide the disabled with limited financial support and channels to received education and search for employment opportunities, and this has in many ways denied these people the right to be an average member of society.


The individual and cultural factors are closely connected, and in many situations they reinforce each other. Li Hui revealed that people with disabilities commonly perceive themselves as a “lower class” of citizens with no or very limited power, rights, dignity and social value, and they do not have a sense of belonging to most, if not all, areas of society. These are things that individuals need to overcome in order to participate in society, said Li Hui, but the root of these perceptions and feelings are culture-related. If the public frequently view disabled individuals as “useless”, “inferior”, “negligible”, “abnormal” and “cursed”, these impressions will inevitably penetrate into the mind of people with disabilities and trigger these distorted perceptions in them.


Much work needs to be done by the government, public and civil society sector. As a social worker Li Hui feels that in practice, in order to help people with disabilities achieve social inclusion it is necessary to pay extra attention to raising individuals’ awareness of rights and social participation, introducing them to their social and legal responsibilities as a citizen of the nation, facilitating them to build close relationships with other people with and without disabilities and helping them to embrace a sense of belonging to groups, communities and the society.


Meanwhile, she also emphasised that the service has to be holistic and people and community-centred. Social workers should have the intention to focus on the patients’ physical, mental, social and spiritual needs, supporting people with disabilities as well as their families. Not only do workers help people with their treatment and rehabilitation, they also equip them to be included in the society with necessary skills and a positive mindset.

“People with disabilities need to show up and not hide anymore”, Li Hui maintains. “They have to let their needs be heard and known, and only then more changes in the environment, culture and entire society can occur. The civil society sector should be there to promote change from below.”

Li Hui shared a couple of cases she encountered in her work with the audience, to show the progress towards social inclusion made by both social workers and the disabled. Patients are offered different channels and encouraged to first engage with people who are in the same situation as them, and both online and face-to-face groups have been established. Thanks to Li Hui and her colleagues’ efforts, activities such as armchair marathons have managed to happen regularly. Moreover, social workers have also been actively engaging with government officials and workers in public transportation to advocate for a friendlier environment that accelerates the process of social inclusion, for example setting up facilities that enable people with disabilities to access underground services.

One inspiring point in her sharing comes from disabled individuals’ reactions to the help they received from social workers. Many of them have successfully engaged with different sectors, landed job offers and built up new relationships after receiving treatment and training workshops, and a good number have chosen to commit themselves to the same work that Li Hui is doing, helping other people with disabilities to regain their self-esteem and be involved in society. This phenomenon has hugely encouraged Li Hui and her colleagues to continue their mission. “We know about two or three couples who met each other in the rehabilitation centre and later got married. Now they are all working on programmes that aim to facilitate the social inclusion of people with disabilities and stand up for change. Their stories and journeys have been widely spread in their circles, and have given people a lot of hope for their future.”

Li Hui ended this informative and inspiring webinar by raising a few questions to reflect on how different actors within society can assist with social inclusion under the existing social, welfare and cultural systems. How do social workers make an impact on the life of people with disabilities by using their professional knowledge and skills? How do institutions and civil society organisations set their goals and promote their services to people in need? How can the society assemble resources and redistribute them to foster social equality? “Our country has already realised the need of people with disabilities to participate in society, and relevant laws and regulations have been passed. Things are moving towards a brighter future, but changes are happening slowly. We still have a long way to go, but we move ahead with good hope.”