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Disabled students say schools are deaf to their special needs

The China Post--Disabled students said yesterday that Taiwan's 3-year-old Special Education Act (特殊教育法) has fallen short of some basic needs.

Huang Shih-wei (黃仕瑋), a deaf undergrad, said a school's ability to find him a classroom typist is always a matter of “fate and luck.”

Without a typist, schoolwork is “highly time-consuming and at the same time I cannot participate in the classroom,” said Huang through a typist yesterday at a Legislative Yuan public hearing.

Another college student, Chang Chien (掌謙), said that as a blind student he needs time to obtain texts and other materials in audio format. Sometimes it can take up to a semester, he said.

“But when I ask about the materials beforehand, teachers tell me, 'Don't worry about next semester.' Then the next semester starts and I can't keep up with others,” he said.

Chang said he is also unable to use his university's online registration system or to gain extra guidance from his instructors.

“I can't figure out how I am doing the classes ... When I ask, teachers encourage me not to regret the past,” he said.

Better Special Ed

At the hearing, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) and Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) touted a package of revisions to the Special Education Act.

The act provides subsidies for services, but does not stipulate the services that must be available. For example, many deaf students can't “speak” without a typist, but schools are not legally bound to provide the personnel or technology.

As a result, there are deaf students entirely mute in the classroom, said Cheng.

Cheng said that the act's Article 33 should clearly detail the “educational assistive devices and support services” that schools must provide for students.

The package also requires schools to support home-schooling parents, as well as help students with daily hurdles like finding restrooms and obtaining meals.

“In the past 40 years, Taiwan's education system has seen drastic changes — our concepts are different from what they were in the past. But for children with disabilities there are still many insufficiencies,” said Tuan.

There are currently 103,864 disabled children and teenagers in Taiwan, 85 percent of whom utilize the public school system.

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