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Foundation hails campaign for `barrier-free' campuses (Taipei)

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    Foundation hails campaign for `barrier-free' campuses (Taipei)

    Students try out wheelchairs yesterday to experience the inconveniences that disabled students face every day on school campuses. They were taking part in a ``barrier-free campus'' event sponsored by the Eden Social Welfare Foundation.

    Foundation hails campaign for `barrier-free' campuses

    PHYSICAL CHALLENGES: The Eden Social Welfare Foundation wants to help the disabled in Southeast Asia with similar accessibility campaigns at schools

    By Chang Yu-jung

    The Eden Social Welfare Found-ation (¥ì¨lªÀ·|ºÖ§Q°ò ª÷·|) hopes to take its "barrier-free campus" cam-paign to other Asian nations, the foundation said yesterday as it hailed the success of its latest campaign on university and college campuses.

    "We hope to help the disabled in other developing countries to live in a better environment by introducing the campaign to other nations, such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam," said Chiu Kuan-ming (ªô¥ú©ú), the CEO of the foundation's Double Blessing department, at a press conference.

    Among the achievements the foundation heralded at the press conference were wheelchair ramps in classrooms and auditoriums at Fu Jen University, designated pathways for the physically-challenged at Tamkang and Soochow universities and modified toilets for the physically-challenged at all three schools.

    The foundation's "barrier-free campus" campaign was launched in March 2001 and concluded last month. It involved a series of one-day activities in which student volunteers used crutches or wheelchairs to get around their schools in order to gain first-hand experience of the difficulties and dangers faced by the disabled on a daily basis.

    After each activity, the foundation and the students made suggestions to their universities and colleges regarding places needing to be modified or rebuilt in order to make them more accessible for the disabled.

    The foundation said nearly 20,000 students from 50 colleges and universities nationwide participated in the campaign this year alone.

    It said that among the 100,000 students who had "experienced disability" as part of its programs over the past two years, nearly 90 percent said the activity had increased their awareness of the needs of the disabled.

    "Educating students about the importance of establishing friendly space on campuses is the first step to realizing a friendly city," said Chiu
    According to statistics released by the Minister of Education in July, there are nearly 2,000 disabled students studying in local colleges.

    Last month the foundation worked with Han Chiang College in Malaysia on a "barrier-free campus" campaign in which nearly 200 students participated.

    The foundation plans to launch a similar campaign at the Hanoi University of Foreign Studies in Vietnam this month before it sends delegates to the Osaka Forum.

    "We will share our experience in pushing the barrier-free campaign at the forum, [which is] supervised by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific [ESCAP]," Chiu said.

    The foundation will represent Taiwan in Osaka at the "International Forum on Disabilities to Mark the End Year of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons," which will be held from Oct. 21 to 23.

    The forum is the last in a series of annual campaigns organized by the Regional NGO Network for the Promotion of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons. ESCAP had declared 1993 to 2002 to be the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons and encouraged both governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Asia-Pacific region to promote the human rights, full participation and equality of people with disabilities.

    The Eden Social Welfare Foundation was founded by the writer Liu Shia (1�4B«L) in the 1980s to promote the welfare of the disabled and offer assistance with training, job-hunting and applications for medical subsidies. Liu herself must use a wheelchair because of rheumatoid arthritis.