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Spain’s Paraplegic Congressman - Francisco Vañó Ferre
[Fighting for Public Welfare in Parliament to Benefit Tens of Thousands of Disabled People]

 
Everyone in our lives is our benefactor as we’ve the opportunity to learn whethergood or bad. I’m a person with disabilities, and to thank the respect and thoughtfulness given by everyone, I would cherish each other even more.
 
 —Francisco Vañó Ferre
 
Francisco Vañó Ferre was born in the Spanish capital of Madrid. A car accident abruptly changed his life which would otherwise run so smoothly. His lower spine suffered a violent impact to become paralyzed, causing him to be wheelchair-bound in the latter half of his life. However, he is optimistic and considered that he is already a more fortunate man than many who lost their lives in car accidents. He hopes to use this miracle to help more unfortunate people.

He published books and used his own experience to encourage more disabled people. He even engaged himself in public welfare and vowed to devote his entire life to people with mobility problems and fight for their rights. In all walks of life, Francisco Vañó Ferre is the first paraplegic person to become a member of Western parliament. After entering the political arena, he uses his status as a member of congressman to seek happiness for more people in need.
 
Francisco Vañó Ferre has never complained about the accident in the past. He believes that this is a task given by God to entrust him to serve the people more humbly and speak for the vulnerable groups. Whenever he talks about Spain’s progress over the past three decades, he always seems to be pleased with the progress made for the disabled as tens of thousands of people with disabilities have gained equal treatments and rights. This has been his lifelong dream.

Francisco Vañó Ferre is a courageous love enthusiast and also likes to send love to others. Based on his personal experience, he always cares for others and encourages people who are as inconvenient as him to fight in parliament for public welfare and protect the hopes of tens of thousands of disabled people. He deserves to be praised as the “Paraplectic Congressman” and stood out among 2616 candidates of Loved Life Medal from all walks of life in the world and won the “21st Fervent Global Love of Lives Award” in 2018 from Chou, Ta-Kuan Foundation in Taiwan. The Foundation always welcomes recommendations for life warriors from all walks of life in the world who are hardworking, benevolent, courageous, and have made great accomplishments, etc. (Fervent Global Love of Lives Award recommendation hotline of Chou, Ta-Kuan Cultural and Educational Foundation of Taiwan: 02-29178770, Fax: 02-29178768, Address: 3F, No. 52, Mingde Road, Xindian District, New Taipei City, Website: http://www.ta.org.tw, e-mail: ta88ms17@gmail.com).
 
The Turn of Life is a Test from God
Francisco Vamó Ferre was born in Madrid, capital of Spain in 1950. Standing 180 centimeters tall, he is a handsome man with a smiling face, and always been the focus of attention from the public. While majoring in economics in the university, he had a beautiful girlfriend by his side. This young man seemed to be particularly favored by God, highly motivated and has a bright road ahead of him.
 
However, an accident in 1971 changed Francisco Vamó Ferre’s life completely. At 21 then, he was driving home when his car accidentally slipped at a corner of the expressway and rolled into a ravine. At that time under a dim sky, Francisco Vañó Ferre was found after a long time and sent to La Paz Hospital. After multiple surgeries, the doctor told him that his lower half of the spine had been subjected to violent impact to become paralyzed. He would be wheelchair-bound in the latter half of his life.

For a young man with a youthful and promising future, the doctor’s declaration had undoubtedly plunged him into a mourning mode. His girlfriend who he had been dating with for many years then also left him. At that time, Francisco Vañó Ferre seemed to have fallen into hell and felt desperate and hopeless. He passed through many nights drinking, hoping to sober up and realize that it was only a dream the next morning.

Fortunately, Francisco Vañó Ferre was not alone as his parents had been accompanying him to rehabilitate. He gradually opened his mind and began to actively face the new life. The nurse who cheered him during his therapy period became his partner, and later became his wife and gave birth to two cute children.

That accident did not defeat Francisco Vañó Ferre at all as he thinks he is already a fortunate man than many who lost their lives in car accidents. He is also convinced that this is God’s generosity and care for him. He hopes to use this miracle to help even more unfortunate people.

Francisco Vañó Ferre’s accident gave him the opportunity to observe and care for the disabled people like him based on his own experience. Later on, he got involved in public welfare and vowed to fight for the rights of people with mobility problems. After entering the political arena, he uses his status as a member of congressman to seek happiness for more people who need help.
 
Not considering himself misfortune, he seeks social attention for the disabled
After leaving the hospital, Francisco Vañó Ferre met many people who were as inconvenient as him. His friend Manolo Torres was paralyzed because of a car accident; Granada, a good friend of him who loved diving had a spine injury due to an improper decompression process that forcedhim to give up his diving career; and a professional matador friend broke his cervical spine fracture due to an accidental negligence and was bed-ridden for life.

These misfortune friends have made Francisco Vañó Ferre realize that he is not the only misfortune guy. He began to think about how to use his own power to let those who have the same sad experience as him to be embraced by the society again, and to be respected and treated equally in the community.
 
 In 2011, Francisco Vañó Ferre published his book “Perdonen que no me levante” for people with disabilities. It tells the public in a humorous way on how to deal with people with disabilities, and meanwhile, encourages all those who have the same experience like him to live independently and face life actively based on the experience he and many disabled people had encountered.

Getting involved in public interest, walking into political arena, and seeking benefits for more people in need 
Francisco Vañó Ferre’s family operates a textile factory in Valencia which provided medical products such as gauzes for the Spanish Armies during World War II. After discharged from hospital, he was arranged to work in his father’s factory. Despite the fact that he and his wife and children can lead a comfortable and stable life in Valencia, but his heart has always had a voice, telling him to serve more people with disabilities. He soon decided to leave Valencia and come to the city of Toledo at central Spain.
 
Under a fate arrangement, the Chairman of Spanish Spinal Cord Injury Association (ASPAYM) visited Toledo and met with people with disabilities. The Association aims to assist the reintegration of paraplegic patients into society, including employment training, action-based autonomy and outdoor activities, etc. Not only can these events help them to gain good quality of life, but even contribute to society.

At the party, the Chairman was quite amazed by Francisco Vañó Ferre’s many ideas to assist the disabled people and was invited to join and become a member of the Association. Francisco Vañó Ferre thought that was perhaps the God’s will to allow him to have a stable job, and happier to use his paraplegic identity to help more people who have the same experience as him. He has since then thrown himself into public welfare affairs.

In 1982, Francisco Vañó Ferre was promoted as the Chairman of the Association and visited the parliament in 1987 as a representative of the Association. At that time, a congressman stated euphemistically: “You may perhaps able to enter the election as a congressman in the future, or even be elected, but the parliament layout may not make it impossible for you to attend.”

At that time Francisco Vañó Ferre responded: “No, Sir, you should think it in this way that if a healthy congressman paralyzed due to a sudden accident, does it mean that he or she would never be able to attend the parliament anymore?”

Francisco Vañó Ferre believes that the parliament, the highest public opinion institution in the country has too little awareness and concern for people with disabilities. This has become a mission for him to enter the political arena and speak for the disabled.
 
The Spanish society in the 1980s was relatively unconcerned to people with disabilities. Even if these people were full of zeal and wanted to work, they were still ruthlessly rejected. Only a few companies or organizations would release quotas for them.

For the disabled to struggle for the right to live, the Spanish Disability Representative Board Platform (CERMI) was co-founded by six organizations, including the Spanish National Association for the Blind (ONCE), and the Spanish Federation of the Disabled. They lobbied for the disabled in parliament and won more job rights for them. Francisco Vañó Ferre played a key role in it and fought hard for people with disabilities.

With the efforts of Francisco Vañó Ferre and others, many industry and commerce circles responded. Francisco Vañó Ferre recalled the job-seeking page of the Spanish ABC Daily newspaper on September 29, 1996 – an advertisement to recruit people with disabilities. That was his most encouraging moment of his life.

That success has brought great encouragement to Francisco Vañó Ferre and others. They quickly sought more rights for the disabled from the government. On December 14, 2006, the parliament passed the right to personal autonomy and cares for the disabled, expand social security to ensure that the disabled can receive more equal rights, work rights and care.

On October 23, 2007, the parliament passed the relevant regulations for sign language and braille to unify the use of the above language to ensure the convenience of the deft and blind people.
 
On December 26, 2007, the parliament passed the Equal Opportunities for the Disabilities and the Non-Discrimination Act to provide job opportunities for people with disabilities and social disadvantages, and take care of them to maintain their basic lives and dignity. This Act stipulates that all governmental departments should give priority to take care of the vulnerable, and also expand friendly spaces and facilities to allow the disabled to enjoy their independent lives.

Francisco Vañó Ferre has made remarkable efforts and contributions for many years. With the support of people from all walks of life, he has become a member of the parliament and is working harder to serve people with disabilities.

Congressional warrior and guardian for the disabled
In 2011, this warrior who vows to dedicate his entire life to people with disabilities became the first paraplegic member to enter the parliament of the Western countries under the expectation of all walks of life. Once entering the parliament, Francisco Vañó Ferre actively fights for the rights and interests of the disabled.

Francisco Vañó Ferre proposed in parliament to urge the government and private sectors to promote the right to work and equality for people with disabilities, eliminate past complicated procedures and regulations for those with disabilities, and help the vulnerable to enter into social works quickly. The bill passed smoothly on August 1, 2011.

In 2012, Francisco Vañó Ferre urged in the parliament that the government should appeal to the United Nations on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) so that people with disabilities can enjoy legal protection and assistance in all aspects of their lives, and they should be treated non-discriminatorily. The proposal was successfully passed by the parliament. In addition, the parliament also allocated a subsidy of $100 million euros to help and benefit nearly 900,000 elderly people and people with disabilities.
 
 On September 29, 2013, the parliament passed an amendment to allow the disabled to integrate into the society and relevant rights, repealed any bill that may involve discriminatory actions on the disabled or the vulnerable social groups, and further amended the penalties and fines on individuals or companies that discriminate against the above-mentioned vulnerable people.

As lobbied by Francisco Vañó Ferre in 2014, the parliament passed a traffic measure for people with disabilities on December 12. It includes the issuance of special parking permits, the addition of special parking spaces, the definition of applicable rights and interests, and more importantly, the individual, family and unit caretakers for the disabled can also apply. Francisco Vañó Ferre thinks that family members and social service providers are also the firm pillars of the disabled and should therefore be treated with respect and convenience.

During his service in the parliament, Francisco Vañó Ferre made use of his personal experience in the service of non-governmental organizations to promote travel, sports and educational resources and obtain more autonomy for the disabled. He believes that people with disabilities should also enjoy the opportunity to travel like the general public in order to broaden and enrich one’s own mind and soul. People with disabilities eventually need to seek self-acceptance and salvation. Only by opening the window in the heart can we add colors to our own life.

It is worth mentioning that Francisco Vañó Ferre also regularly exchanges opinions with congressmen across Europe. He hopes that Spain, Europe and even the world can respect the disabled and the vulnerable social groups. They can become a group of people who contribute to society, and the society should give them equal opportunities.

Don Quijote de la Mancha who guards the vulnerable
The 67-year-old Francisco Vañó Ferre likes to drive around. He also stipulates himself to take an hour and a half drive from Toledo where he lives to Madrid at least twice a week, just to drink coffee and chat with his friends. The purpose is to fulfill the promises he made that a person with disabilities can also enjoy the beauty of the world.

Francisco Vañó Ferre has never complained about the accident in the past. He believes that this is a task given by God to entrust him to serve the people more humbly and speak for the vulnerable groups. Whenever he talks about Spain’s progress over the past three decades, he always seems to be pleased with the progress made for the disabled as tens of thousands of people with disabilities have gained equal treatments and rights. This has been his lifelong dream.

When talking about family and friends, he never forgets: Everyone must cherish the ones who stay by your side.

He said: “Everyone in our lives is our benefactor as we’ve the opportunity to learn whether good or bad. I’m a person with disabilities, and to thank the respect and thoughtfulness given by everyone, I would cherish each other even more.

Francisco Vañó Ferre’s smile is always refreshing, his voice is always powerful, his service for the rights and interests of people with disabilities is his lifelong career, his life has changed because of an accident, but that accident has allowed him to extend his love towards more people and help more to success. Francisco Vañó Ferre is an enthusiastic warrior who loves life and is also a love giver.