Sunday, November 13, 2011

In Taiwan, 1,000 people protest for rights of people with disabilities

From Focus Taiwan News Channel:

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Some 1,000 disabled people, their families and activists took to the streets Sunday to demand better social welfare and rights for the disabled, the largest protest of its kind in Taiwan in a decade, the organizer said that day.

The protest brought together more than 20 disabled groups and was the first time groups comprised of people with hearing disabilities and mental illness have marched on the streets to voice their grievances, said spokesman Hsu Chao-fu.

Protesters in wheelchairs held placards that read "I want barrier-free restaurants," "I want barrier-free schools," and "I want work rights" to express their discontent with the government over the slow pace of improvements in these areas.

Rain began to fall shortly after the march began, with passersby cheering the protesters on.

The group was demanding that the government increase disabled-friendly facilities at restaurants, hotels, on public transport, in schools and office buildings, Hsu told CNA.

"If a disabled person doesn't even have a chance to interview for a job, how will he or she have an opportunity to be employed?" he asked.

"Government policies should not just give disabled people wheelchair ramps, bathrooms and parking spaces, but should consider the needs of the disabled in every aspect," Hsu added.

The government should also ensure that disabled students are assigned personal assistants at school, allow disabled people to retire and receive a pension at the age of 50, and take action to get rid of the stigmatization suffered by mentally ill people, said the spokesman.

"It is not only about the disabled, but also about the elderly and children in our country," said Hsu. "We want to let the world know that Taiwan is not a backward country."

The group marched from the Taipei Main Station to the Presidential Office passing the Control Yuan, Executive Yuan, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Education, where they submitted petitions in support of their cause.