Opening Windows to the World

by on 週三, 26 十月 2011 7499 點擊 評論
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By Mr Qiu (62/Male/Completely Paralysed), edited by Zhang Xingwen and translated from the original Chinese by Conor Stuart

I've lain in this bed for 36 years now. When I was 26 years old I had a car accident, which lead to my whole body becoming paralyzed; I went from being the boss of a steelworks to a bedridden patient. It was if my life went from colour to black and white. Thanks to my natural optimism, I wasn't defeated by this attack of destiny, for 28 years I relied on reading newspapers and watching the news on television, to keep myself informed and interested, and I became a kind of scholar of the modern age.

During this period, my contact with the outside world was conducted using a stick controlled by my mouth, with which I operated the phone and the television remote. Although I had heard that computers were an indispensable technological gadget for modern life, as I was paralysed from head to toe, I didn't even have a clear idea of what computers looked like up close, never mind actually using one.

That was up until I saw a news report on disabled people using a stick held in their mouths to use computers about 8 years ago. I burned with curiosity, so I called the news station and asked for their source, and they referred me to the Assistive Technology Centre. The engineer came to my home and designed a head controlled mouse for me using the stick I normally used to operate the phone and the TV remote control. I felt as he magically transformed it into a little helper that would allow me to use the computer.

When I could use the computer, the way I lived my life changed dramatically! When I could use the computer, the way I lived my life changed completely! As well as the vast and colourful resources and information that you can browse on the internet, what helped me most was that I no longer needed someone to help me flick through the telephone book. I put all the numbers of my friends and family into an Excel worksheet, and I only needed to tap once or twice with the stick in my mouth and I could find their number.

The internet provides a lot of conveniences that able-bodied people might not think of. One example is Google Maps, with the aid of my trusty stick, I can return to my ancestral home in the mountains of Miaoli and revisit my childhood memories, as well as getting a glimpse of what it looks like now. I also discovered blogging, which is so popular these days, I only need my 'little helper' stick, and I am endowed with a voice, with which I shared my story with lots of people, as well as being able to give help and encouragement to people in the same situation as I am in.

The internet helped me to resolve my financial situation too. As I am from a low income household, employing foreign workers to help around the house is necessary but it is also a big financial burden for us. At the end of 2002, the Council of Labour Affairs raised the Employment Stability Fee for employing foreign workers from 600 NT ($20US) to 2000 NT ($66US), which increased this burden even more. I wrote to the Council of Labour Affairs by email explaining my situation but did not receive a satisfactory response. So I wrote to the office of the President, the Executive Yuan, the Association of Spinal Cord Injury in Xinzhu, a disability organization, and finally the Social Welfare Department of the Ministry of the Interior to explain my situation. It was the Social Welfare Department that ended up helping me out. From the 1st July, 2007 the Employment Stability Fee varied according to income, low income households only need to pay 600 NT ($20US) per month and middle income households only 1200 NT ($40US) per month. Although in my letter I had asked that low and middle income households be exempt from the Employment Stability Fee, it was better than nothing. This is a clear-cut example of how the internet has helped me to overcome problems that have a real effect on my quality of life.

From time to time, I have to be hospitalized due to infection. Lying on a hospital bed without the internet is like being in prison, the boredom is worse than the illness. I wish that people who are confined to their beds everywhere could be given the ability to use computers and internet access, opening for them a window to the world, not having just to stare at the ceiling.

(Detail of a drawing by Bendu)

最後修改於 週三, 08 一月 2014 17:34

最新自 Maxine Chang (張幸雯)

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