Mon, Nov 08, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Visually impaired man the nation's first blind lawyer

PERSISTENCE After failing the exam twice, Lee Bing-hung passed the bar on his third attempt and will soon begin training to become an attorney

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lee Bing-hung, the first person ever in Taiwan to pass the bar exam, speaks at a press conference held in his honor at the Examination Yuan last Thursday. He thanked his mother for her hard work and dedication in helping him with his studies.

PHOTO: KO SHU-LIN, TAIPEI TIMES

Twenty-five-year-old Lee Bing-hung (李秉宏) was among the 4,979 examinees who took the bar exam this year. He felt good about his performance after taking the last test on the third and final day of the exam.

"Let bygones be bygones ... it's no use to dwell on it," he told himself.

He went back to his job the next day at the Labor Insurance Bureau where he serves as a full-time phone debt-collector.

He felt the same way when he took the exam last year, for the second time, but he was three points shy of passing the exam. To improve his score this time around, he decided to answer questions in Braille instead of typing them on a computer, which was prone to have typos because of multiple word choices.

At around 9am, last Thursday, he got a phone call from his mother, Chang Hui-ling (張卉羚), who told him to ask for a half-day leave to go to the Examination Yuan in Jingmei, Taipei City.

Chang had received a phone call from the Ministry of Examination informing her that her son had passed the bar exam and that the ministry would hold a press conference about it. The ministry said it would send a limousine over to her son's workplace to pick him up.

Lee was among the 399 examinees to pass this year's bar exam. He will become the nation's first blind attorney-at-law and Asia's third once he passes a five-month practical training law program. The odds of passing the bar exam in Taiwan are about 8 percent. Lee ranked 128th out of all the examinees.

"It was a total shock for me," said the 53-year-old Chang, a Pintung County native. "I didn't have time to go home and change because I was visiting my clients in Sindian when my husband called to tell me the news. I had to rush to Jingmei on my scooter."

Her husband, a diabetes sufferer, wanted to witness the spectacle held for his oldest son, but his poor health prevented him from going.

To get ready for the exam, Lee had worked with his mother, who works as a scrivener at a real estate agency for the past three years.

After graduating from the Taipei Visually Impaired School, Lee went on to obtain his bachelor's degree in law from the National Taipei University.

"What I learned at the Visually Impaired School was to read the Braille and take care of myself," he said. "When my family later moved to Taichung, I learned how to ride trains and book train tickets on my own."

The four years of college life were full of fond memories, he said. He learned fundamental ins and outs of the the legal system and made a lot of friends. But he tasted the bitterness of the real world when he was looking for a job after graduating from college. Not many employers were keen about hiring a visually impaired person.

During this frustrating time, he said he began think of giving up looking for professional work and do what many visually impaired people do in Taiwan: become a massause.

"But my parents, especially my mother, would encourage me and tell me that I have to work harder than normal people to be successful," he said. "I owe what I am now to my parents, who are very supportive and did their very best to raise me as a normal child."

When Tsai Tzai-hsiang (蔡在相), deputy secretary-general of the Federation for the Blind of Taiwan, ROC, learned of Lee's story, he decided to help.

"After I helped him land the job at the Labor Insurance Bureau, I told him that he could do one thing for me in return," Tsai said. "He had to continue his studies. I'd like to see him go to graduate school."

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