Taipei, June 2 (CNA) A Taiwan choir for the blind launched Taiwan's first tandem bike team for the visually impaired at Taipei's Dadaocheng Wharf on Saturday.
Tseng Hsin-jung, the leader of Spread Wings Choir, said the tandem bike team was established to encourage the visually impaired to participate socially 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 visual guides, their lives are usually restricted to work and family, Tseng said.
Tseng hoped the bike team could allow visually impaired people to to cycle around Taipei at least once a month, and he said monthly events were being planned.
He noted, however, 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 bike.
Tseng estimated the group would need at least 25 volunteers per session, which translates to a need of at least 100 volunteers to meet monthly and annual needs.
The bike team will organize its first 20-person outdoor event on June 10 and will ride from the 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 kicked off last year.
Because it is hard for the visually impaired to participate in most sports, the bureau asked the college to design activities geared to blind participants, said Kung Hsien-lan, the bureau's deputy director, who attended the launch ceremony for the tandem bike project.
Lin Chen-kun, an associate professor at the college, said it was difficult for the physically impaired to play sports but noted that the government was placing increasing importance on the issue.
The Deaflympics held in Taipei in 2009 showed the country 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 tandem bikes and sending students on a monthly basis to coach the blind community to ride bicycles since 2011, and three to four of the students have actively raised funds to support the team.
One of the special guests at Saturday's event was first lady Chow Mei-ching, who made an appearance to show her support for the blind bike team.
(By Lung Jui-yun and C.J. Lin)