Judoka Lee Kai-lin (李凱琳) and table tennis player Cheng Ming-chih (程銘志) on Friday were invited by Citibank Taiwan Ltd (花旗台灣) to speak about their experience as Paralympians.
Citibank said it hoped the online meeting between its employees and the athletes would encourage company staff to put more consideration into issues related to mentally and physically challenged people.
Citibank said it hoped its staff could be the “strongest supporters” of people with disabilities.
Photo: Screen grab courtesy of Citibank Taiwan Ltd
The company held the meeting online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, inviting about 100 employees to participate, it said.
As part of efforts toward building a culture of inclusiveness and equality, Citibank sponsored 49 athletes at this year’s Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Team Citi was a diverse group of male and female athletes from different continents, with ages from 17 to 50, the company said.
Silver medalist Lee is from a family of judoka. She has overcome visual impairment to compete at two Paralympics, including the London 2012 Games, where she took home silver for Taiwan.
Cheng won silver at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016 and was for a time this year the world’s top-ranked player in the TT5 class.
Both athletes said that while they felt great pressure to win gold in Tokyo, they focused on implementing their training and told themselves that their opponents would also be nervous, which helped them alleviate their stress.
While competing, they strive to overcome their egos, they said.
“I feel that Taiwan has been slowly progressing in the past few years on the issue of sports for physically disabled people, but I hope that more people can see us as athletes, not injured people,” Lee said.
Lee said she felt many people would assume that judo is not challenging for a blind or deaf person, but in reality she needs to spend more time and energy on training than the average athlete would.
Disabled athletes, like non-disabled athletes, have to expend tremendous effort to perfect their skills on top of the energy to overcome their disability, she said.
Cheng said that aside from learning to hold a paddle and volley the ball, in his sport he also needs to learn fine control of his wheelchair.
Cheng said he treats every match as if it were his last, which pushes him to give it his all.
He said he hopes to see more people support disabled athletes.
“When I began using a prosthesis, I really cared a lot about how others looked at me. Then I realized that what is important is to get used to my own appearance before worrying about what others think,” he said.
The best way to interact with a disabled person is to act naturally, Cheng said.
Most of the time they can take care of themselves, so when they need help they will ask, he said.
Hopefully, people will learn more patience for those with disabilities, Lee said, adding that sometimes disabilities are not obvious at a glance.
Citibank said that it began focusing on the challenges of people with disabilities when the pandemic worsened in Taiwan in June.
The company became concerned about how disabled people in particular were affected, it said.
It worked with the Taiwan Hsin Chu Lun Association, a social-welfare organization, to distribute meals to disabled people in need, with employees helping to pay for the meals through donations.
Every October, Citibank runs an awareness campaign for disabled people.
This year it invited people from six countries to help produce a video that encourages interaction and dialogue with disabled people.
The video encourages “seeing them as people,” and not focusing on their disabilities, the company said.
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