Rhap­sody of a man with po­lio — a life unbound by phys­i­cal con­straints

The China Post - - LOCAL - BY ANITA YANG

“Have you ever no­ticed the thresh­old in your bath­room? It is de­signed so that the bath­room doesn’t get flooded, but has wa­ter ever reached that high or even sur­passed the thresh­old when you are show­er­ing?”

Most peo­ple who are able bod­ied have never thought of this ques­tion, but even a thresh­old of 3 cen­time­ters can be a great ob­sta­cle for those who are in a wheel­chair. The ques­tion was raised by Tang Feng- chen (

) , Foun­da­tion of Uni­ver­sal De­sign Ed­u­ca­tion (FUDE,

) chair­man, when he shared his goal of pro­mot­ing uni­ver­sal de­sign with The China Post.

Over­turn­ing Fate

Tang’s fate may seem tragic to many but he has turned his life into an in­spi­ra­tional ex­am­ple and is work­ing hard to ded­i­cate his life to the world. When Tang was eight months old, he had a fever that led to po­lio and re­sulted in him hav­ing to use a wheel­chair from a very young age. His child­hood was tough, but this man pro­claims that he has lived his life like a “rhap­sody.” “Not ide­al­is­tic, nor a dream, but a rhap­sody that is crazy and dreamy at the same time,” ex­plained Tang.

He headed to Taipei when he was 25 and worked like any other per­son, for a while at Taipei City Hall, fight­ing for an ac­ces­si­ble en­vi­ron­ment for the dis­abled. But he re­al­ized that it was tough to be en­gaged in a so­cial move­ment with­out em­pa­thy from oth­ers.

“Tai­wan had an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion by the end of 2004, tak­ing up 7 per­cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion. A friend told me about the con­cept of uni­ver­sal de­sign at the time so I de­cided to place my vi­sion fur­ther and es­tab­lished the foun­da­tion in 2005 with a 15-year pro­mo­tion pro­ject in mind,” shared Tang.

The Be­gin­ning of Uni­ver­sal

De­sign in Tai­wan

Uni­ver­sal de­sign con­sists of seven prin­ci­pals: eq­ui­table use, flex­i­bil­ity in use, sim­ple and in­tu­itive use, per­cep­ti­ble in­for­ma­tion, tol­er­ance for er­ror, low phys­i­cal ef­fort as well as ap­pro­pri­ate size and space for ap­proach and use.

As an ed­u­ca­tional foun­da­tion, FUDE has rest­lessly hosted many com­pe­ti­tions for uni­ver­sal de­sign ob­jects for 10 con­sec­u­tive years. Tang man­aged to pro­mote it and turned it into an is­sue that is talked about in the de­sign field; even the gov­ern­ment started to take uni­ver­sal de­sign into ac­count.

The goal was to mass-pro­duce high-qual­ity work from the com­pe­ti­tions and make it ac­ces­si­ble in daily life. How­ever, Tang shared that it was rather hard to ac­com­plish be­cause “Tai­wan’s mar­ket scale isn’t big enough.” “Many works won var­i­ous prizes and awards over­seas but the re­al­ity is that no one would com­mer­cial­ize it as the suc­cess­ful rate is too low,” said Tang.

Start From Scratch — Wheel­chair-friendly Res­i­dences

This year, in the 10th year of Tang’s orig­i­nal plan, he de­cided to change his strat­egy. In­stead of pro­mot­ing smaller-scale mer­chan­dise, he re­turned to ba­sics and tar­geted uni­ver­sal de­sign in residential spa­ces. FUDE es­tab­lished cer­ti­fi­ca­tion stan­dards by in­te­grat­ing the seven prin­ci­ples that are re­lated to space.

“We hope that the houses are uni­ver­sal, when the space is uni­ver­sal then el­e­ments or ob­jects that come in will have to be uni­ver­sal as well,” Tang said. He con­tin­ued to say that a de­sign doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily have to meet all seven prin­ci­ples, but just a few of them can make it a good de­sign that is based on what is “hu­man.” “We can only achieve the big pic­ture with a friendly, ac­ces­si­ble en­vi­ron­ment by slowly con­struct­ing it,” stressed Tang.

Ac­cord­ing to Tang, FUDE is cur­rently pro­mot­ing the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion so more can do ac­tual re­search. It is also col­lab­o­rat­ing with sev­eral NGOs and or­ga­ni­za­tions to re­de­fine the re­la­tion­ship be­tween man and en­vi­ron­ment, and to fur­ther dis­cover the key point in how to as­sist. Last but not least, it has de­vel­oped a ser­vice process to serve those who are in­ter­ested in build­ing residential spa­ces with uni­ver­sal de­sign. Tang also wants to in­flu­ence lo­cal gov­ern­ments and co­op­er­ate with them.

“Taichung ( ) al­ready has an on-go­ing con­struc­tion pro­ject. We are start­ing with New Taipei City ( ), Taoyuan ( ) and Taichung; then we will pro­ceed to Tainan ( ), Kaoh­si­ung ( ) and fi­nally back to Taipei ( ) with the pro­mo­tions.”

Tang also has the am­bi­tion of pen­e­trat­ing into China. He shared that China has a big­ger mar­ket where an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion is also a prob­lem. “If it strikes suc­cess in China, we are talk­ing about hun­dreds of thou­sands of res­i­dences, it can prob­a­bly in­flu­ence Tai­wan,” he said.

From Tang’s point of view, not only those who are dis­abled need a home with big­ger doors or rooms with­out thresh­olds, be­cause peo­ple have friends who use wheel­chairs and when they visit they won’t be able to come in by them­selves. He thinks that the true qual­ity and beauty of the Tai­wanese peo­ple is kind­ness, so peo­ple should look at other peo­ple’s needs and prac­tice al­tru­ism. He also thinks that in or­der to foster the con­cept, ed­u­ca­tion

stands as a key fac­tor.

Joy­ful and Full

As a protes­tant, re­li­gion has pro­vided much strength for Tang through the dark mo­ments. He ad­mit­ted that there have been chal­lenges and dis­ap­point­ments, but the eter­nal hope that he be­lieves in al­lows him to stay pos­i­tive and be grate­ful for the bless­ings. Be­cause of lim­i­ta­tions on his body, Tang said that when he en­coun­ters hard­ships, his tac­tic is to stay out of the neg­a­tiv­ity. Be­ing con­stantly ac­tive and try­ing to be cre­ative also break past his lim­i­ta­tions.

Tang, a hu­mor­ous, cheer­ful and op­ti­mistic man, has done count­less amaz­ing things in life, in­clud­ing swimming across Sun Moon Lake ( ). Af­ter his 15-year uni­ver­sal de­sign pro­ject is fin­ished, he hopes to be­come a sto­ry­teller who inspires and in­flu­ences many oth­ers.

By Anita Yang , The China Post

(Top) Foun­da­tion of Uni­ver­sal De­sign Ed­u­ca­tion (FUDE, Chair­man Tang Feng-chen ( ) talks about the lim­i­ta­tions on his body and pur­sues a friendly en­vi­ron­ment for all. (Above) Get­ting rid of stairs on a rooftop lets dis­abled peo­ple en­joy the view from the top.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.