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  • Chris McMillan

The Gaokao: Now Available in Braille

Wall Street Journal (blog)

The Gaokao: Now Available in Braille

Apr 17, 2014

China’s famously difficult college-entrance exam is about to get easier—or at least for one group of test-takers, more accessible.

Across the country, the many blind street performers and massage parlors offering treatments from blind masseurs are a testament to the limited opportunities the country’s visually impaired individuals can face.

But for the first time, according to a notice from the Ministry of Education, the nation’s college-entrance exam will be accessible to the blind or visually impaired, with the government providing exam papers in electronic form or in braille. (Chinese braille essentially works on a pinyin-like, Romanized alphabet basis—though not always that well, given Mandarin’s many homophones.)

Such a move was made, the ministry said, in part to “enthusiastically show concern and care for test-takers from disadvantaged social groups.”

The move won’t affect this summer’s crop of test-takers, said Huang Rui, a Henan-based lawyer who works on disability-access issues, as the registration period has already passed. But he said the step should help change the sense of what is possible for the country’s visually impaired students. “Maybe they never thought they could go down the path of taking the gaokao before,” he said, “but this has opened up a kind of window for them.”

China accounts for about 18% of the world’s blind population.

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