Barriers on the path to civil service

By Wang Yu-ling 王幼玲  / 

Sat, May 28, 2011 - Page 8

In the procedures for the Taiwan Police College’s 30th session of student enrollment, it is plainly written that the second round of exams includes a physical fitness exam and standards for an oral examination. For the physical fitness exam, it stipulates that potential students are not allowed to have tattoos on any part of their body. Among the standards for the oral examination, it says potential students will be excluded and disqualified if they “look improper,” specifically listing pockmarked faces, blemishes, moles, scars or birthmarks larger than 2cm on the neck or above that seriously affect outer appearance.

So people with facial scars look improper and people with tattoos will not pass the physical exam, even if the tattoo is not located in a visible spot on the body or the images or words are inoffensive. However, none of these requirements are relevant to becoming a student at a police college, receiving a police education or even a person’s competency to work as a police officer.

Such restrictions have already gained approval from the Ministry of Education even though they are all forms of discrimination based on physical appearance and facial features. Apparently, a certain sensitivity is lacking in the way education officials perceive “discrimination.”

After students graduate from police school, they have to pass a special examination from the Examination Yuan before they can obtain a position in the police force, even though Article 39 of the People with Disabilities Rights Protection Act (身心障礙者權益保障法) requires the Examination Yuan to abolish unfair restrictions against civil servants with disabilities.

Nevertheless, there are still 12 civil service examinations that require physical exams. Besides the restrictions against police officers having tattoos, anyone taking the special examination administered in the Ministry of Justice to become a prosecutor is similarly not allowed to have any “serious facial deformities.” They claim that the restrictions take into consideration the sidelong glances that such deformities would easily attract when a prosecutor collects evidence for forensic investigations.

However, is it really necessary to set such restrictions in an age when cosmetic surgery is so common? And are they not contradicting Article 5 of the Employment Services Act (就業服務法), which states that discrimination against facial features is not allowed? Obviously, all of these restrictions are in serious need of re-evaluation.

In many cases, it is never explained how certain parts of a physical exam are related to a particular position. For example, people with color blindness cannot register to take the civil service special examinations for diplomatic, journalistic and business personnel because when personnel are stationed abroad, they need to be able to drive and chauffeur Taiwanese and foreign VIPs; moreover, color-blind people might also be unable to differentiate the colors of the flag for the county in which they are residing. These are not the central duties of diplomatic personnel, yet the government is still imprudently using bureaucratic regulations to exclude the employment rights of a segment of our citizens.

Judicial personnel, including judges and prosecutors, must take a physical exam and be excluded as incompetent if they have certain disabilities, such as any serious physical impairment, which includes vision worse than 20/200 or hearing loss higher than a 90 decibel hearing level.

Chen Chun-han (陳俊翰), a man with severe muscular dystrophy who obtained the highest score ever on the civil service examination for lawyers, went directly to the Presidential Office to discuss with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) why he had not been allowed to register for the civil service examination for judicial personnel. Their talk resulted in a subcommittee in the Examination Yuan holding a conference to improve the examination procedures for people with disabilities.

More than a year later, the Examination Yuan sent out letters to all government agencies seeking advice on the feasibility of canceling, abolishing or relaxing physical exam standards. However, after only two meetings to discuss the matter, and because of each department’s insistence on keeping their own standards, all national civil service examinations have still managed to keep their own respective restrictions concerning physical exams for people with disabilities.

People with disabilities demand equal opportunities. Employment opportunities should not be taken away from people with disabilities simply because their physical features or faculties are impaired. Upon Taiwan’s signing of the two covenants — the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — Article 25 of the latter guarantees that all Taiwanese be protected against unjustifiable limitations and shall have the right and opportunity to participate in government, including the civil service. Since this is a human rights issue, we urge the government not to set any discriminatory restrictions for national examinations against people with disabilities.

Wang Yu-ling is secretary--general of the League of Welfare Organizations for the Disabled.