Happy International Day of Persons with Disabilities in Taiwan!
Or rather, Happy International Day of Persons with Disabilities since I’ve heard very little about how this day is being celebrated in Taiwan.
As today has approached, I’ve been scanning the news looking for information about International Day of Persons with Disabilities which is celebrated on December 3rd each year. (Burgundy is our color of awareness, by the way.)
It’s fair if you’ve never heard of this day before, although today was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3 in 1992! Taiwan may not be a member of the United Nations, but it enacted legislation in December 2014 that is in line with the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
In 2014, it was estimated that 1.4 million persons with disabilities (PWD) are living in Taiwan, and that number has grown since then.
If you haven’t heard of today, read on. This post sheds much needed awareness and visibility on a community in Taiwan that is largely ignored. I rarely see disability rights covered in the media.
It’s almost like disabled people are invisible in Taiwan.
In 2020, I’ve seen every minority group in Taiwan recognized except the disabled community, and I have to admit that it stings. As a disabled woman, I find it deplorable that there was only ONE mention of International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 2020.
Taiwan hosts the largest LGBTQ parade in Asia. We’ve had BLM events; we’ve had events for migrant workers and other oppressed groups of people, but there is a distinct exclusion with disabled individuals. Outside my inner circle of disability advocates online, I’ve seen nothing showcasing how amazing disabled people are or any reference to how inspiring this community is.
Yet no one is celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities in Taiwan.
I wrote about being invisible in Taiwan in 2018 and was interviewed by Stephen Crook for his article with AmCham’s Topics Magazine that same year. His article is called Accessibility for Taiwan’s Disabled A Work in Progress. Feel free to check out my comments and images of inaccessible places of business, while also catching up on the outrageous facts of life that people like me have to live with here.
The biggest single factor hindering progress, he says, “is that people still see accessibility as a charity issue, and a goal they should work toward out of pity for the disabled, not because disabled people have a right to access.”
“It’s easy to find facilities that satisfy the regulations for accessibility, but which – in practical terms – are useless,” says Chang. He urges Taiwan to adopt the principles of “universal design,” which makes buildings, products and environments accessible to all people, regardless of age, disability or other factors.Source: https://topics.amcham.com.tw/2018/12/accessibility-for-taiwans-disabled-a-worked-in-progress/
History of International Day of Disabled Persons
It’s surprising to me that no one knows much about Disability History Month or that there is a different theme each year for today. What’s especially surprising is that this year’s theme centers on accessibility, as well as how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.
I’ve written about this many times. Taiwan is NOT accessible. This year I prepared in advance and got in touch with two foundations to ask what they are planning for today. I heard from Eden Social Welfare Foundation, but they did not get back to me about what they’re doing for today.
To recap, here is what today is all about:
International Day of Disabled PersonsUnited Nations
“It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
When I ran a search yesterday for ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities in Taiwan’ out of sheer frustration to see why nothing is in the news, I realized that WE DON’T EVEN MAKE IT INTO THE NEWS.
Here’s the proof with my search results.
This is sad, guys. It’s demoralizing. It’s dismissive. It’s bullshit.
These search results seem to reflect Taiwan’s attitude towards the disabled community. It also reflects the lack of progress Taiwan has made in making this island a fair and equal place for people like me. We all want to live in a society where we are valued and recognized just like everyone else is.
In terms of ‘how far we’ve come’, equality has been so slow in arriving that it’s almost non-existent in Taiwan.
Even though organizations like Eden Social Welfare Foundation and Taiwan Access For All Association are pushing campaigns for awareness and accessibility, the reality is that disabled people aren’t usually included with city planning even though accessibility is listed as a priority with project launches. Upon completion of each project, it’s not uncommon to find that facilities are impractical and hard to use.
When I’ve brought the topic of accessibility up with friends, or when I’ve asked friends why they continue to support venues that are not accommodating towards the disabled community, I’m met with confused looks. “But there are places you can go, right?”
Only my close friends know how much planning goes into leaving my home to deal with obstacles I know I’m going to run into.I've noticed that people are quite ignorant about systemic ableism in Taiwan. It seems hard to believe that disabled people are discriminated against in 2020, yet it's clear most don't know what ableism looks like or sounds like. Click To Tweet
One example I can give is questioning a friend about using a venue for a BLM event and asking why they were using a venue that was not accessible and that had had problems with staff discriminating against disabled people.
Her reply was, ‘We’re doing it here because this venue seats more people‘.
OK. But this venue DOES NOT accommodate disabled people.
I was gobsmacked by her reply. She was oblivious to how hurtful her comment was or that she was fighting for one group while actively oppressing another group of people. Suffice to say, that comment is a prime example of ableism and I made my point with the following statement:
Imagine if someone questioned me about why I’m hosting an event at a venue that has been known to discriminate against people of color, and my reply was, ‘Well, we can seat more people here.’
I’d get roasted alive! The hypocrisy is mind-blowing.
To say that I am frustrated and angry about what life is like for people like me and how callous and unaware people are is an understatement.Having a disability means constantly trying to prove you're enough. We should not 'be given help' out of a sense of charity. Click To Tweet
We deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. We should not be ‘given help’ out of a sense of charity. And yet, asking for help shows that we are different. Being different means we might not be worthy.
This is why I’ve written this post today. Today is about the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development.
Every disabled person I know can contribute in many ways. A great number of us are exceptionally creative. We’re adept at many things, especially when it comes to working from home and utilizing technology in different ways.
In many ways we are better equipped to deal with the challenges of today’s world because we’ve lived it for years.
Yet, I constantly feel like I have to prove my worth. When I’ve had to say no to doing something because of my disability, I’m often left feeling misunderstood and left behind.
Regular readers of this site are also likely aware of what I’m going through right now to get coverage for medications that keep me out of my wheelchair. I haven’t even started on disability coverage in Taiwan. Is it even available for permanent citizens of Taiwan? I hope that this is a question I can answer for my readers in 2021.
This is such a sad thought considering that Taiwan does so much to recognize other marginalized and oppressed groups of people in Taiwan. There are countless businesses here and educational institutions that need further education, training, and awareness for disabled patrons.
In fact, my experience is that most businesses I’ve visited are not set up in any way to accommodate disabled people, including people with invisible disabilities. We’re an afterthought.
How are we living in a world today that doesn’t recognize these individuals? How do we make things better?
Disability awareness and inclusion is a human rights issue that is still largely ignored. Having been part of this social movement now for years, I have seen a little improvement. But we still have so far to go.When we begin taking a deeper look at how disabled individuals can contribute to society if society would let us, you start to see just how many talented and amazing people are left out just for being a bit different. Click To Tweet
Sitting here in Taiwan in relative safety and still suffering the consequences of a world riddled with COVID19, I realize that I am lucky. I still have a job, kind of. I’m barely making ends meet. I’m not in debt although I have burned through my savings this year. Others are not so lucky and it’s absolutely fair to say that the disabled population has been the hardest hit during COVID19.
From lack of access to healthcare to loss of employment and no chance of being able to participate in community events because of safety issues related to health, many disabled individuals around the world are suffering right now. We are still one of the most excluded and most ignored groups in society.
For myself, I might be suffering this year but I’ve also learned to love my chronically ill body. I recognize that my disability has made me stronger and more compassionate in many ways. Yet I still feel like I am other.
How COVID19 Has Launched More Awareness for the Disabled Population
One thing I have noticed in 2020 is that there does seem to be a little more awareness for the disabled population. Or at least, people are certainly more aware of immunocompromised individuals and how hard it has been for disabled people and seniors to access health services.
I’m surprised by the many comments I’ve seen coming from healthy people who have been forced to work at home or forced to stay home and how they’ve had to make things work.
How hard it is to stay at home.
How hard it is not to travel.
How hard it is to have to wear a mask.
To these folks, I say ‘Welcome to my world. I’ve adapted and you can too!‘
I’ve been doing this for years, so this pandemic has brought no changes for me except fear of the unknown and more awareness of just how UNAWARE people are about how disabled persons live.
In many ways, we are better prepared to handle the changes from this year and the changes that are coming. We (the disabled and chronically ill communities) certainly have the experience and the know-how. We started working with digital tools, resources, and solutions years ago in order to be able to participate online in education and awareness events. The social isolation that many of us go through with illness is par for the course. We’re far ahead of the game compared to folks who are just getting started in this new world.
It’s time to turn to us and learn more about how you can integrate some of our lessons in life into your lifestyle.
It’s time for you to be aware that many of us have been in quarantine for years and we’re fine and thriving because we had to.
If we can, you can.
Now that COVID19 has shown the world that it is possible to work from home or to adapt our lifestyles, perhaps it will be possible for all of us to move forward to a world that is more accessible and inclusive of the disabled.
I’m starting with you, Taiwan. The time for change has come and you’re going to hear me roar about it in 2021.