Wed, Dec 07, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Computer system helps ‘Helen Keller’ fulfill her dreams

NEW LIFE:Chuang Fu-hua was paralyzed in a fire that left her blind and mute, but new technology has enabled her to write and study at university

Staff Writer, with CNA

A young blind woman with multiple physical disabilities, including paralysis from the neck down, has managed to write more than 300 poems and fulfill other dreams with the help of a computerized phonetic system.

Chuang Fu-hua (莊馥華), 27, known as “Taiwan’s Helen Keller,” met reporters at National Chung Cheng University in Chiayi County yesterday to describe her life and how she learned to communicate after losing her speech, sight and physical mobility as a result of injuries sustained in a fire 17 years ago.

At the age of 10, Chuang suffered severe burns in a fire that left her in a coma for three months.

When she came out of the coma, Chuang began trying to communicate, using her sense of hearing and moved her head in eight different ways to convey different meanings.

She later gained the means to “speak” through a system that was developed by a research team led by former National Taiwan Normal University professor Yang Kuo-ping (楊國賓).

The system uses Morse code and another numerical code-phonetic communication system to transcribe Chuang’s signals into Mandarin or English, said Tseng Shu-fen (曾淑芬), a language therapist with the non-profit Maria Social Welfare Foundation in Greater Taichung.

A passionate and devoted student, Chuang was able to attend classes at the Department of Special Education and the Department of English Teaching at National Changhua University of Education in central Taiwan, fulfilling one of her dreams of enrolling in college.

She also writes poems, which is part of her dream of becoming a writer.

Last year, another one of her dreams came to fruition when she traveled to Chengdu, China, and Hong Kong to “speak” about her love for life.

Her story, which is reminiscent of Helen Keller’s of the US, has been recorded in a documentary titled It’s Dawn that was produced by the foundation. A Japanese film director who saw it was so moved, he obtained the rights to screen it in Japan.

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