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Taiwan mulls giving disability benefits to more foreign nationals

05/27/2023 10:16 PM
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CNA file photo for illustrative purpose only.
CNA file photo for illustrative purpose only.

Taipei, May 27 (CNA) Taiwan's government is deliberating whether to provide disability benefits to more foreign nationals, in response to a petition by a nongovernmental organization calling for disability inclusion that had solicited hundreds of signatures in support as of Saturday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is currently identifying the 10 countries with the most residents in Taiwan and ascertaining whether Taiwanese expats in their countries are entitled to disability benefits, Chang Mei-mei (張美美), deputy head of the Social and Family Affairs Administration at the Ministry of Health and Wealth (MOHW), told CNA on Friday.

Chang's office, which is in charge of issuing disability certificates that provide holders with certain types of benefits, consulted with MOFA on that information May 18 after Crossroads, a nongovernmental organization, launched a petition that advocates equal access to disability benefits for foreign residents on a government-run platform last month.

Among some examples of the many challenges foreign nationals with disabilities face every day, Michael Boyden, a UK resident of Taiwan for 34 years diagnosed with Atypical Parkinsonism, said he is not allowed home visits by medical professionals to evaluate his care needs and not entitled to subsidies when purchasing assistive devices or benefits for respite care.

An American resident of Taiwan for 13 years signed the petition for his/her daughter. "This is for my 4-year-old child born here (in Taiwan) -- she is unable to get a disability certification, making her ineligible for subsidies for travel to doctors appointments or medical equipment."

The petition urges the MOHW to revise its application rules to enable foreign residents in Taiwan to qualify for a disability certificate in observance of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Taiwan incorporated into domestic law in 2014.

In accordance with the UN convention and Taiwan's domestic law, the government is duty-bound to safeguard the rights and interests of all disabled individuals, the group argued.

Taiwan leads the world in many human rights and democracy indicators. However, not recognizing the disabilities of foreign nationals with a disability certificate and providing relevant support is still an area that requires immediate improvement, the petition read.

Immigrants contribute their youth, experience, wisdom and energy to Taiwan -- they pay taxes, contribute to the national revenue, and start companies that hire local employees, it said.

"Taiwan cannot abandon them in the event they become disabled due to age, disease, an accident, or a genetic condition."

Currently, Japan is the only country whose residents in Taiwan are eligible to apply for a disability certificate, according to a government document issued in 1998 by the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), which then supervised the Department of Health, the precursor of the MOHW.

Based on the principle of reciprocity, the government would issue disability certificates to foreign residents on condition that the home countries of such residents give residents of the Republic of China (ROC), the formal name of Taiwan, the same protections as its nationals, it stated.

In Friday's interview with CNA, Chang stressed the importance of "reciprocity and parity" when it comes to recognition of foreign residents with disabilities.

According to Taiwan's laws, a disability certificate is necessary to access disability benefits, including financial assistance for medical equipment or services, living allowances, special education resources, parking permits etc.

The petition must collect 5,000 signatures by June 13 to oblige the MOHW to provide an official response, which will serve as a reference for policymaking.

As of Saturday afternoon, 550 individuals had endorsed the petition.

Apart from launching the petition, Crossroads said in recent social media posts that on April 6 and May 11, it met with Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇), who is leading the "disability inclusion" drive among public officials, as well as officials from the MOHW, MOI and the National Development Council to discuss their proposal.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Sean Lin)


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