A Greater Tainan musician and her family said she was humiliated after receiving an award at an athletics event, which categorized her as a “mentally challenged participant.”
“I should be happy with the result I achieved, but I was left sobbing,” Shih Ching-hua (施靜華), a Chinese zither musician with the Tainan City Traditional Orchestra, said on Tuesday.
She sustained trauma and serious injuries in a traffic accident a few years ago, which left her with brain damage.
Shih participated at a city-sponsored sports event for physically and mentally challenged people at which she placed fifth in a competition.
The celebrations turned sour when she received the certificate, which described her as being fifth in the “mentally challenged females, over the age of 16” category.
The certificate used the term zhi zhang (智障), which means people with mental disabilities, but is also a common insult for such people.
“The wording may be valid, but couldn’t the organizers have written something more positive? Did they have to use the term zhi zhang to describe the individuals in the competition?” Shih’s husband asked.
They found support from Greater Tainan Councilor Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) of the Democratic Progressive Party, who said although it might not be a big issue for the recipients, “but for her family, it is rubbing salt into the wound.”
He suggested that the local government establish a “Shih Ching-hua clause.”
“Greater Tainan is a city of happiness,” Wang said. “For our city’s athletic events, guidebooks, placard signs, certificates and medals should use wording that conveys empathy and respect for humanitarian values. We can be the first to do so, to distinguish ourselves from other cities and counties.”
Huang Hsu-hsin (黃緒信), deputy head of Greater Tainan’s Bureau of Education, said categories in athletic competitions should follow national and international conventions.
“We will meet with officials from the Bureau of Social Affairs and representatives from organizations working with mentally and physically challenged people. We hope to come up with neutral terms that are more suitable and respectful,” Huang said.