Laws and public attitudes have improved, but Taiwan is far from accessible for many wheelchair users.
The News Lens
By: Steven Crook, Taiwan Business TOPICS Magazine
Taiwan is a crowded place. The population per square kilometer is nearly 20 times that of the United States, and the cities are crammed with parked vehicles and snack vendors. Although accessibility for wheelchair users has improved in recent years, for the hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese who are unable to step around or over obstacles, simply trying to reach the supermarket or the dentist can still be an arduous experience.
Given the rapid aging of the Taiwan population – by 2026, 21 percent of the people will be over the age of 65 – the need for better accessibility will only be increasing sharply in the years ahead.
Credit: Steven CrookA wheelchair user is lifted onto an accessible bus.
Uta Rindfleisch-Wu, a German who has lived in Taiwan since the early 1980s, credits Taiwan with having “come quite far” in terms of access for the physically challenged. Ramps have been retrofitted to thousands of buildings, for example. Elevators large enough for mobility scooters can be found at almost all Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) stations, and TRA staff have been trained to assist those who need help.
Rindfleisch-Wu, whose daughter has cerebral palsy, is a consultant at the Therapeutic Riding Center in Taoyuan City’s Xinwu District. Recently Rindfleisch-Wu traveled to several places in Taiwan with a friend who can walk, but not for significant distances, and who finds stairs difficult. “Nearly everywhere we went there were toilets for the disabled and wheelchair ramps,” she says. “In places managed by government agencies, one can always borrow a wheelchair.” [FULL STORY]