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Sun, Oct 17, 1999 - Page 2 News List

The handicapped make a splash by washing cars

EMPLOYMENT After its first year of operation, Taipei City Government officials are looking for ways to assist a financially burdened Taipei carwash with a difference

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Yu-cheng Carwash (育成洗車中心) employee Lee Wen-lung (李文龍) polished a vehicle's headlight as gently as if he were powdering a baby as five of his colleagues -- all of whom are disabled -- joined him to clean the interior yesterday at one of Taipei's most unique car cleaning services.

"I feel good working here," said Lee, a 20-year-old mentally handicapped worker at the site, which is operated by the Yu-cheng Welfare Foundation for the Handicapped.

Lee and his colleagues, who number over 40 in total, say the first anniversary of the car wash center yesterday gave them a sense of accomplishment as they were able to learn skills there to survive on their own. All are either mentally or physically challenged.

"I am very happy that the center is one year old now. It has created a workplace for the disabled," said section chief Huang Yu-hsueh (黃玉雪), who suffered third degree burns during a car explosion in 1997.

"It's like a big family here. The kids [referring to younger workers at the site] respect me, and I treat them as members of my family," said Huang, who was unable to leave her home for over three years after the accident, fearing what people might think of her appearance.

Ke Pang-sing (柯平順), a professor at Taipei Municipal Physical Education College, said such schemes allow the disabled to prove to others their accomplishments at work, culminating in what he called "an opportunity to change the wrong impression enterprises have of the disabled that dissuades them from hiring handicapped workers."

While nobody says handicapped workers are the fastest car-washers around, Kenneth Chu (朱欽浩), the owner of the vehicle Lee and his colleagues were cleaning, cited "efficiency" as the reason why he prefers to use the services of the Yu-cheng site whenever he wants to have the interior of his car cleaned.

"They [workers at the Yu-cheng carwash] do a better job here, as more workers clean the car simultaneously, and [the interior of] my car is far cleaner after the service," Chu said.

However, financial worries cast a shadow over the center's future. It has lost between NT$100,000 and NT$300,000 per month since operations began last October, said Chen Chieh-ju (陳節如), chairwoman of the foundation.

Attributing the losses to rental fees in excess of NT$120,000 per month, as well as a less-than-ideal driveway design, Chen has turned to city officials for help.

Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said the city government would help improve the driveway design, as well as consider further help such as an additional rental subsidy.

The current rental subsidy for the site, which is located under the Chienkuo overpass, is 70 percent, said Jeng Tsuen-chui (鄭村棋), director of the city's labor affairs bureau.

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