“I’m grateful to my parents for always treating me as a normal person,” said Lee Bing-hong, the first blind lawyer in Taiwan. He added that his parents’ attitude allowed him to cultivate an unflinching spirit of perseverance in overcoming challenges and difficulties, without using his handicap as an excuse.
Lee, age 35; Chang Hui-mei, 51, deputy secretary general of the Taiwan Association for Disability Rights; and Lin Chun-chieh, 34, secretary general of the Taipei Independent Living Association (TILA), are three remarkable disabled persons from Taiwan. As a testament to their achievements, they were all invited by the U.S. State Department to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program. They toured five cities in the United States for 21 days, starting in August 2014.
Despite their challenges, they are truly accomplished individuals. Lee, who has worked for the Legal Aid Foundation in Taipei for eight years, often provides disadvantaged people with free legal consultation and assistance. Chang brings the plight of the disabled to the attention of lawmakers to enact beneficial legislature. Lin’s transformative experience of studying abroad in Japan from 2004 to 2005 inspired her to start a movement for independent living for the disabled. She established TILA in Taiwan in 2007.
My friend Annette Alvarez welcomed the group to Miami and was responsible for arranging their local itinerary. She hosted an American-style barbeque at her home on August 31, and I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the event. Thanks to their amiable and forthright personalities, I was completely comfortable asking each of the Taiwanese visitors whatever I was curious about. I didn’t need to worry about offending them.
When I asked about the major difficulties he faced, Lee told me there were two: a lack of adequate, audible information for blind people, and people’s incredulity regarding his actual capabilities.
“Do you have any wish other than helping disadvantaged people?” I asked. “Getting married,” he remarked candidly.
Lee is an very handsome man, but due to his visual deficiency he is still very reserved in courting his sweetheart. He admits to having an interest in a woman within the same Christian community he belongs to, and he hopes to move forward with the relationship soon. I asked if he could tell how she looked by touching her features, but he said it would be too rude to do so.
After listening to Lee talk about this topic, I could not help but admire his suave, debonair manner. Pondering deeply the matter of marriage, I feel we “normal” people often take too many conditions into consideration, such as the other party’s economic status, appearance, education, etc. In contrast, Lee’s condition is so very pure and simple: love. I don’t know if his potential spouse realizes how lucky she is!
Lin has been suffering from brittle bone disease since she was born. People with this condition have bones that break easily, often from mild trauma or even with no apparent cause. Lin told me that she had fractures frequently when she was a child, but fortunately the symptoms stabilized after she went to college. When talking to this lovely doll, you cannot help but notice the dazzling smile that appears on her face all the time.
Chang led a healthy life until she was in a car accident when she was studying at California State University in Fresno in 1990. Her physical condition deteriorated further after the birth of her son in 2001 and her daughter in 2004. She was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a genetic, hereditary muscle disease that causes progressive muscle weakness. She hopes to introduce in Taiwan the day-care systems designed specifically for the elderly and for young children that she witnessed in Baltimore, Maryland. I was so moved when she said that her illness is unimportant.
“What really counts is that we should unite all of our strength to show care and concern to the disadvantaged in our society.”
These three people share one thing in common: Their hearts are full of hope for the future, and they want to encourage people with disabilities by personally setting good examples for them to follow. They are able persons indeed!
Extracted from the Tzu Chi Quarterly, Spring 2015 (Taiwan)