A Taiwanese choir for the blind launched the nation’s first tandem bike team for the visually impaired at Taipei’s Dadaocheng Wharf yesterday.
Tseng Hsin-jung (曾信榮), the leader of the Spread Wings Choir, said the tandem team was established to encourage the visually impaired to participate in social events and overcome venue and rental limitations.
Due to visual limitations and the lack of barrier-free environments, most blind people do not have many chances to go out and enjoy nature. Without the help of volunteers and guides, their lives are usually restricted to work and family, Tseng said.
Tseng hoped the bike team could allow visually impaired people to cycle around Taipei at least once a month, and he said monthly events were being planned.
However, he said that the bike team desperately needs volunteers, who are critical to the program because every visually impaired rider needs to be accompanied by a volunteer to steer the tandem.
Tseng estimated the group would need at least 25 volunteers per session, which means at least 100 volunteers are required to meet monthly and annual needs.
The bike team will organize its first 20-person outdoor event on June 10 and will ride from Beitou MRT station to Taipei Water Park.
The team is the result of a joint initiative between the Bureau of Health Promotion and Taipei Physical Education College that was started last year.
Because it is difficult for the visually impaired to participate in most sports, the bureau asked the college to design activities geared toward blind participants, said Kung Hsien-lan (孔憲蘭), the bureau’s deputy director, who attended the launch ceremony for the tandem project.
Lin Chen-kun (林鎮坤), an associate professor at the college, said it was difficult for those with any type of physical impairment to play sports, but noted that the government was placing increasing importance on the issue.
The 2009 Deaflympics held in Taipei showed that many physically and mentally challenged people are active and athletic, but simply need to find a suitable sport to participate in, he said.
Lin has been promoting tandems and sending students once a month to coach the blind community in cycling since last year.