Joseph Y. B. Tsai, Taiwan Disabled People's Association, Taiwan.
One day in Harare I accompanied several friends to walk through the city center. I was impressed with the barrier-free nature of the buildings which is far superior to what we have in Taiwan. This was a great testimony to the concern which the government of Zimbabwe has for its disabled citizens.
Taiwan has recently given the world the impression that it is a rich country, but in this area we are poor indeed. The government devotes less than 0.5 per cent of its central budget to matters directly benefiting persons with disabilities. So, for the past three years our association has joined with other like-minded groups to lobby for an increase in the social welfare portion of the budget. We have put a lot of effort into this action and there has been a slow increase in allocated funds. From this experience we have learned the importance of united pressure on the government and its budgeting processes. This is necessary if we are to see an improvement in the status of persons with disabilities.
The government budget increases slowly, and so does the work it tasks itself with on behalf of persons with disabilities; but it does not increase the personnel resources to do the work. Taiwan has many social welfare regulations. There are very good laws about barrier-free environment. But, because of a lack of personnel to put these regulations into force the result is negligible. There is even a lack of a central coordinated and consolidated plan. This is an area into which we must put more effort. We know this is influenced by the basic way in which the government is organized. To date, we lack a central cabinet-level ministry of social welfare. Until now it has been impossible to establish the work of social welfare even though the laws are in existence. To have such laws without the personnel to put them into force is merely to waste paper and ink.
My emphasis here is on living. A barrier-free environment does not apply only to architecture. These past days in Zimbabwe we have had talked a lot about hardware, but we have ignored the software side of the issue. Things like sign language and the needs of the non-hearing. Communication is the biggest impediment to the participation of the non-hearing in society. How can we enable them to come in? Most important is how to enable the non-hearing, who have an equal right to knowledge as all other people, to have access to all information, even though they do not hear the spoken word. I urge you not to neglect the non-hearing in your discussions of barrier-free environments. In Taiwan every year we organize sign language training conferences for elementary school students. This is done in cooperation with neighborhood schools and parish churches. We teach the students some basic sign language and introduce them to other sorts of disabilities. The result has been positive. Our goal is to have everyone able to communicate in sign language to enable the non-hearing to re-enter social life.
Beyond sign language, communication facilities need TDD equipment as is common in North America and Europe. We hope that Taiwan and other countries can soon be equipped.
Recently the government of Taiwan has begun to amend its constitution. This is the first time in over 400 years that the people who live in this nation have had the opportunity to have input into such a basic process. We hope that a barrier-free environment can be written into the new constitution as a basic right of all citizens and visitors to our land.
In conclusion, I believe that through your efforts a barrier-free world is a not-too-distant possibility.
A. A regulation of Buildings Technique Control, revised in 1989 by the Ministry of Interior. Chapter 10, Article 170 (Public buildings and places shall install equipment facilitating the movement of the disabled persons).
B. Law of the Disabled Person's Welfare, revised 1980/6/2 by the Ministry of Interior. Article 23: All new public facilities, buildings, recreation facilities and transportation facilities must be equipped for the convenient access of persons with disabilities. If they do not comply, they will not be licensed for use. Pre-existing facilities must be modified and funds for such modification must be included in the budget of the using agencies. All facilities not modified by the end of 1995 will have their licenses revoked.
C. The enforcement plan of the Ministry of Interior subsidizes public buildings and places to install the barrier-free environment for disabled persons.
I) Time: 1st January, 1991 - 30th June, 1992
First: 1st January,1991 - 30th June, 1991
Q: On the communication system, it was interesting that you pointed out that you have some sort of system of communication such as signs, can you tell more about this.
A: In our country there are no communications systems for the deaf, though I know in North America there are 30 communication devices for the deaf, the abbreviation is TDD.
Q: I would like to ask Mr. Tsai whether this is law which says that all facilities not modified by the end of 1995 will have their licenses revoked.
A: I believe you mean article 23 which demands that public buildings build accessible facilities for persons with disabilities. If they do not have the occupancy permit they will be closed.
C: You showed us a card that Taiwanese authorities give to persons with disabilities which entitles them to lower transportation fares. I had a similar card for Germany which entitled me to use public transportation free of charge. At the same time ownership of this card implies that the bearer is 100 per cent unable to work. Thus, the card has a certain stigmatizing effect. I wonder if it is really appropriate from a mobility point of view to accept these discount cards or whether it would not be better to push for an income subsidy in the form of a pension for those who do not work and then we would not have to feel like beggars every time we present ourselves someplace.
C: Is there not the possibility that the stigma associated with particular provisions of any disability act are strongly related to a cultural base. In fact, there might be other organizations that also receive discounts in a particular society yet it might be an acceptable principle in a particular culture.
C: I think we should accept realistic approaches to alleviate the economic hardships of disabled persons. In many developing countries it seems to be much more convenient to give discounts as against the handing out of money. So in many of certain developing countries it is found much more convenient with the economic system to offer discounts, such as with transportation, rather than having some reserve of cash to be given out as a pension. I think we should accept such a measure as a first step. Many developing countries are not in a position to give out cash to alleviate the hardships of disabled persons.
C: Discounts and special privileges are operating in many countries and places. For example, the city council of Bulawayo made a decision that if any disabled, blind person applies for a job, if he is qualified he's given first preference because we have blind technical operators and even people who are on crutches as security guards, we also have attendants at the ambulance and fire brigade service as station control officers. It is basically a policy by local authority, counsellors decide that.