Sun, Oct 19, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Blind masseurs get fashionable image

FRESH APPROACH A new center offers a trendy treat that is very popular among city-dwellers, doing away with the traditional image of shabby massage parlors

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chen Chieh-ju (陳潔如), chairwoman of the Parents' Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (智障者家長總會), said that, given the current unemployment rate, the government could not really ensure people's work rights anyway.

"The special law [the Disabled Protection Law] should have priority over the Constitution to protect the rights of disadvantaged people," Chen said.

She said Taiwan has been ignoring the rights of disabled people for a long time, and that there was no other choice except using strict laws to protect their rights.

"I am not completely opposed to opening up the industry, but there has to be very strict and clear regulations on what the sighted masseurs can do, and the law has to be enforced completely to protect the blind masseurs' rights," Chen said.

Besides the Blind Massage Health Center, blind masseurs have set up service points at Taipei municipal hospitals, Taipei Railway Station and the offices of the Taipei City Government. This was achieved with help from the government, to improve the public's access to their services.

At these service points there are usually only a few chairs for the customers, but business is looking good, because customers usually have to queue.

With the help of good marketing concepts, visually impaired masseurs are no longer confined to little shops and can now expand their business.

The Taipei City Council yesterday opened a massage station staffed by blind people, and invited Yu to attend the opening ceremony.

Yu did not show up, but he did send a top-level official to say that the ministry is determined to protect the work rights of visually impaired people.

"We will not open up the massage industry to sighted people while blind people are still not guaranteed comprehensive employment opportunities in society," said Ju-na Chiu (邱汝娜), director of the Department of Social Affairs.

"Currently there are only a little more than 2,400 licensed masseurs, but there is a great demand for massage services in the community, so we will work on improving the professional training for blind people.

"At the same time, we also understand that this is not the only profession blind people can enter. According to our survey, there are now 64 professions with blind employees, but 70 percent to 80 percent of blind people are engaged in the massage business. We will also develop different jobs that are suitable for blind people," Chiu said.

According to figures provided by the Ministry of the Interior, there are about 45,000 blind people in Taiwan, of which 16,000 are old enough to work.

About 6,000 out of them are working, and just more than 2,400 are licensed masseurs.

The Blind Massage Health Center's address is: 5F, 146, Minchuan E Rd. (民權東路二段1465F), which is opposite the renowned Hsingtien Temple (行天宮).

Call (02) 2509-3363 for an appointment.

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