Quadriplegic hopes to inspire inmates

LIFE-CHANGING ACCIDENT::Chen Wen-chao was paralyzed after drinking and driving. He has rebuilt his life and now hopes to inspire others to do the same

By Hsieh Chieh-yu and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 - Page 5

Chen Wen-chao (陳文昭), 50, hopes he can inspire prison inmates to turn their lives around.

Chen was paralyzed from the neck down in 1995 following a drunk-driving accident.

Feeling helpless and vulnerable, he said he was unable to accept his condition at first and tried to take the easy way out.

However, he changed his mind and decided to make the most of his life after his father committed suicide by swallowing pesticide.

With the aid of equipment provided by the Equipment for the Physically Challenged in Central Taiwan Center, which is affiliated with the Chung Shan Medical University Hospital, Chen learned to use computers with a mouth-controlled mouse.

Holding a pipe in his mouth, he uses his tongue to control a joystick that directs the mouse, and inhales and exhales to “click” on the “left” and “right” mouse buttons.

The software he uses is based on the “Boshiamy pinyin system” (瞴蝦米) developed by Liu Chung-tzu (劉重次) in 1989, which uses the English alphabet as basic elements to form Chinese words.

Chen said he resembles a woodpecker when using the joystick and computer, and so named his home and studio in Greater Taichung “the Woodpecker Studio.”

In 2003, he decided to write about his life and experiences.

His first book, the 60,000-plus-character My Life — Written by Breathing (我用呼吸書寫一生), was published in April this year, with the aid of the Adlink Technology Foundation.

In the book, Chen tells about his life after his accident, and admits that he deeply regrets getting behind the wheel of his car after drinking, and to feeling that he has not lived up to his family’s expectations.

“Life would not be so difficult if only I had not drunk alcohol,” Chen wrote, calling on people to be responsible drinkers and not drive after drinking.

“It is a lose-lose situation in which you hurt yourself and others,” Chen wrote.

Chen also keeps a diary and submitted an application to Guinness World Records on Feb. 27 last year, for having written 1 million words using a mouth-controlled mouse.

Now that he is a published author, Chen said on Tuesday that he hopes to become a motivational speaker and to be able to travel around the country, visiting every prison to encourage inmates to do something constructive with their lives.

“Hopefully, the contrast between myself, someone who cannot move and needs help just to eat, and their healthy limbs will help them realize that they still have the ability to do something to change their lives,” Chen said.

He said he hoped his optimism and personal experiences could also motivate inmates “to be good” after their release.

Chen’s efforts have earned him a Golden Eagle Award from the Ministry of the Interior.

The award honors physically challenged people who have become role models because of their positive attitude.