Thu, Nov 23, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Wheelchair dance competitor, others to be feted Dec. 1

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Ho Hsin-ju (何欣茹), 28, was just nine years old when a speeding train ran over her legs, mangling them beyond repair.

A moment of carelessness on a railway forced Ho to trade in her ballet shoes for a pair of prosthetic legs.

"After the accident, I became a hermit -- I became very introverted and rarely went out," Ho said at a press conference held yesterday by the Ministry of the Interior aimed at honoring physically and mentally challenged persons.

Since meeting her husband, however, Ho has been back on the dance floor with renewed confidence.

The fact that she dances in a wheelchair hasn't stopped her from winning top prizes in international dance contests.

"This is specially designed for dancing," Ho said, pointing to her state-of-the-art wheelchair.

Ho took fourth place on behalf of Taiwan in the wheelchair dance competition at the 2004 International Paralympic Games in Japan.

Instead of bragging about her exploits on the dance floor, however, Ho preferred to show the audience her moves yesterday, whirling around gracefully to pounding Latin music.

"My husband, with his open, confident attitude, inspired me to pursue my dreams despite my disability," Ho said.

"I've realized my dream; I hope others like me can realize theirs, too," she said.

With the International Day of Disabled Persons just around the corner, the ministry is promoting closer integration of disabled persons with society.

Celebrated worldwide on Dec. 3, the International Day of Disabled Persons honors physically and mentally challenged individuals.

"Disabled persons have much to offer society, and we need to give them the space and opportunities to develop their talents," Minister of the Interior Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) said yesterday.

Lee added that the lifestyle and attitude of individuals like Ho should serve as an example to the rest of society.

The minister also plugged an upcoming ceremony at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall to honor the achievements of 10 outstanding disabled individuals, including Ho, on Dec. 1 at 7pm.

The guests of honor will be awarded trophies for their contributions to "breaking barriers," Lee said.

David Chang (張文彥), a blind mountain climber who recently scaled Yushan, will be among those honored on Dec. 1, a ministry press release said.

Performing his first song in sign-language in public, Lee, accompanied by five fluent sign-language "speakers," signed the lyrics to an uplifting song at the end of the press conference.

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