Home>Service> Global Love of Lives Award> 16th Fervent Global Love of Lives Award> Tang Feng-Cheng, Taiwan—Racing Warrior
[Race and embrace the world.]

For common people, walking is more than easy, but I have to work on it for a lifetime. The world will not move toward me, unless I move myself and embrace it.
—Tang Feng-Cheng
 

Tang Feng-Cheng, the president of the Foundation of Universal Design Education (FUDE), lost his both legs and one arm at 1 due to high fever. His father gave his life in service when he was two, and his mother left home when he was 3. He was raised by his grandmother. After his grandmother passed away, Tang went to Taipei to find a job. As a junior high school graduate, luckily he found his first job thanks to the help of others. Later he was invited to work as the staff at the Department of Social Welfare, Taipei City Government, by Chen Chu, the minister at that time. He was involved in the promotion of low-floor buses, and longer open duration of the elevator doors at Taipei MRT stations. When everything was going well, he was faced with the greatest failure in his life—losing the city council election. This failure made him reflect on his bold and proud personality. As a straightforward person, Tang was desperate to stand up for the rights of the disabled. Thus, he founded the FUDE and was actively promoting universal design (UD).
 
     
There were many great helpers in Tang Feng-Cheng’s life—from leaving his hometown to a promoter of UD. Tang has written his heroic story with passion. He is always firm and persistent. He turns his disability into passion, and rushes forward with that passion. He is a true racing warrior.

Struggling with Death
Tang Feng-Cheng was born in a happy family in Hsikou, Chiayi in 1966. His father was an official at Taiwan Power Company who had a bright future. His mother was a beautiful lady. But all has changed overnight. The day before Tang’s first birthday, he had a high fever over 40 degrees Celsius. Tang’s father was on a business trip that day. His mother was frightened and didn’t know what to do. She waited for the father to return. When Tang was sent to the hospital, the doctor said that it was too late and that he could not do anything. 
     
According to a Taiwanese custom, the dying baby had to be wrapped in a towel and put under the eaves, and buried after he breathed his last breath. However, they found that Tang was still alive after a night’s struggling with death. But he lost his both legs and one hand, and his body became deformed. 
     
From that day on, Tang Feng-Cheng was destined to sit on the wheelchair for his lifetime. Despite the fact that he was disabled, his racing life was just about to begin. 

School Life

In elementary school, Feng-Cheng was lucky to have a caring teacher, Mrs. Chang Mei-E. Mrs. Chang opened Feng-Cheng’s interest in reading, and she gave him books and dictionaries as gifts. Because Mrs. Chang had two children about the same age as his, when she bought stationery, she would give some to Feng-Cheng. Mrs. Chang was like a mother, taking special care of him. She also told Feng-Cheng to continue his study.  
     
When Tang was in junior high, three classmates from the nearby village—Chen Ren-Cheng, Tsai Chin-Cheng, and Chen Yu-Lung, gave a hand to Tang’s grandmother and accompanied him to school. They became bosom friends, sharing everything in their life with each other. Tang Feng-Cheng would never forget their friendship in the three-year junior high school life.
 
After graduating from junior high, Tang was admitted to Pei-Kang Agricultural l High School. He had to take a 40-minute bus ride, and had difficulty using the toilet at school. So he gave up three months later, bringing an end to his school life. Staying at home all day, Tang felt lonely and anxious. He often lost his temper and yelled at his grandmother. Tang’s grandmother could do nothing but shed tears over Tang’s impoliteness.
 
In order to make Feng-Cheng happier, his uncle who lived in the same house bought a TV and a video player for him. At that time, very few households could afford a TV, and Tang was surrounded with many neighbors who wanted to watch TV together. However, what the TV brought Feng-Cheng was just a sense of vanity that did not last too long. After he got tired of it, he felt helpless and lonely once again. One day, Tang’s uncle saw him yelling at his grandmother again. Grandma was too sad to say anything. Tang’s uncle said to him, “Be more mature, will you?” The next day, Tang’s uncle gave him many books, hoping him to get something out of them and become a well-behaved teenager. 
     
At first, Tang was bored with the books. But as time went by, reading became Tang’s daily routine. As he read more, he came to like books and couldn’t get enough of them. As the saying goes, “He that travels far knows much.” Tang was unable to travel, but he could know more by reading. Tang found that he could find the answers to many questions by reading books, and have a better understanding of the world. He read not for diplomas but for knowledge. Although he could not go to school, he could still make himself a learned person by reading at home.

Grandma’s Love Would Be There Forever
Tang Feng-Cheng’s father passed away when he was still very young, and his mother left him alone. Thus, Tang was raised by his grandmother. Relatives and friends always despised and teased such a broken family. When Tang was in elementary school, his grandmother carried him to school every day. She loved Feng-Cheng very much. Every time he lost his temper, she always consoled him with patience.
     
Grandma was the most important person in Tang Feng-Cheng’s life. She was everything. Her love consoled him when Tang thought of the loss of his parents. Thus, when his grandma passed away, Tang fell into despair and didn’t know what to do. He often asked himself, “Where am I to go? Will I be stuck in this house all my lifetime?” For some time, all that he did was to recall his memories with his grandma. But finally he realized that there was no use staying in his house all day, and that he needed to find a way out and make it big.

A “Quick Success”

Haunted by the thought of developing his career, Tang made up his mind and left for the big city Taipei alone at the age of 25. He left a farewell letter behind the picture of his deceased father and departed. With only 5,000 NT dollars with him, he knew that he was likely to starve to death anytime, but he was not afraid. He believed that he would succeed and lead a totally different life someday. 
     
When Tang began to apply for a job, he found that everything was against him. He had neither academic diploma nor working experience. He sent his applications to more than ten companies, but none of them were accepted. But luckily, he received a letter from Hua-Hsin Steak Company a month later which invited him to the interview. He was admitted to the company at last.
     
What Tang did at first was simply desk job, but his hard-working attitude drew the attention of his supervisor. He was soon promoted to the director of the planning department, but he was not satisfied. He believed that what he wanted to do was something more meaningful. What he wanted was not the sense of accomplishment gained from his work, but to stand up for the disabled people and let their voice be heard. 
     
Tang had changed several jobs since he left Hua-Hsin Steak Company. One day, Chen Chu, the minister of the Department of Social Welfare under Taipei City Government, invited him to work at the Department of Social Welfare. His job was to help the poor and the disabled in Taipei. Not afraid of being fired, Tang Feng-Cheng kept criticizing the officials in the Taipei City Government for not paying attention to the obstacle-free space and the rights of the disabled. For example, Tang had difficulty using the ATM machine in the City Government when he was on duty, and he could only ask for the help of others. The machine was far too high for wheelchair users.

Leading a Social Movement

There was a time when an earthquake struck, and Tang was on the MRT. The staff asked all the passengers to move out of the MRT station because they had to check the whole system. The station was closed, and a crowd of passengers were waiting to take the bus at the gate. Unable to take the bus or the taxi, the only thing Tang could do was waiting on the wheelchair and watching people leaving him alone.
 
It was very difficult to reserve a caregiver bus in Taipei. Electric wheelchairs were too big to be crammed into a taxi. There were so many buses in Taipei, but none of them was available for disabled people. Once the transportation for the disabled people was inconvenient, they would have less change to participate in activities, and thus their living and social circle were limited. Hoping to solve this problem, Tang began to think about the promotion of low-floor buses. 
 
Tang Feng-Cheng thought that it was ridiculous for low-floor buses to be absent in the capital of Taiwan. He began to collect data of low-floor buses around the world, getting prepared to lobby on the promotion of low-floor buses. However, his efforts were hampered by the fact that the bus service in Taipei was run by private sectors. The proprietors cared about nothing but their profits. They said that low-floor buses were too costly. An ordinary bus cost 3 to 4 million NT dollars at that time, while a low-floor bus made in Hungary cost about 10 million. Although the cost of a low-floor bus fell to about 6 million NT dollars a while later, none of the proprietors were interested in it.
 
Lo Hsiao-Hsien, the director of Taipei City Bureau of Transportation at that time, was an authority on public transportation studies. He saw the necessity for Taipei to have low-floor buses. Tang cooperated with Lo and kept lobbying the proprietors and the city councilors. With the encouragement of several subsidization policies, Capital Bus and Danan Bus were the first companies to purchase low-floor buses. And other proprietors also began to support the low-floor bus policy one after another. 
 
Tang Feng-Cheng took the low-floor bus for the first time when there were just a few people on it. When the bus driver finished fixing Tang’s wheelchair onto the seat, all the passengers applauded and was surprised that wheelchairs could now get on the bus. Although the bus driver spent some time on fixing the wheelchair onto the seat, no one complained about it—this was the right attitude for a civilized citizen. The success of low-floor bus policy in Taipei led to the promotion of the same policy in other cities, and the central government provided more subsidization for private sectors and local governments, making low-floor buses more common in Taiwan. 
 
In addition to the low-floor bus policy, Tang was also involved in another change in mass transportation—designing elevators with the function of keeping the door open for longer duration. When first designed, elevators were not included in the MRT system. Had it not been for the proposal of Liu Hsia and city councilor Chao Shao-Kang, elevators wouldn’t be present in today’s MRT system. 

Learning from a Major Failure

Tang Feng-Cheng was concerned about the living quality and rights of the disabled. Having worked in the public sector for five years, he gained a lot of experiences and wanted to devote more to the society. Thus, he decided to run for Taipei city councilor to stand up for the disabled.
 
As a candidate, Tang did not have the support from political parties, and neither did he hold many campaigns. All he had was his passion, and he was really confident of himself. However, it turned out to be a “narrow defeat”—he got the highest number of votes of any non-elected candidate. Tang’s confidence and optimism collapsed due to this major failure. It wasn’t until a while later did he regain his confidence and passion. 

Regaining Confidence
The defeat in election made Tang Feng-Cheng frustrated for a while. One day when he looked into the mirror, he was frightened and said that, “What’s wrong with me? Where’s the passion when I first came here? I remembered saying that I wanted to come here to enjoy a colorful life and embrace the people. How could I give up so soon?”
 
Tang made up his mind to start all over again. He forced himself to keep early hours and exercise. He regained confidence with the encouragement of the people around him.
 
At that time, some enterprises were recruiting a project with the theme of “Keep Walking.” Tang brought up a travelling project which helped the disabled to go outdoors and embrace Mother Nature. But when he brought up the proposal, the deadline had passed. Tang asked for help everywhere but in vain.
 
Tang’s friends suggested that Tang establish a foundation if he really wanted to do something for the disabled. And his friends introduced him to the concept of universal design (UD). The definition of UD was that everyone could have access to certain items or spaces without any limitation. This kind of design was very user-friendly.
 
In the past, “obstacle-free spaces” were promoted in Taiwan, which helped many disabled people and changed their life. However, the society assumed that obstacle-free spaces were designed for the disabled only. This stereotype has baffled the promotion of related policies and ideas. 
 
The purpose of universal design is to change the viewpoint of the society. It starts from the simplest designs, making all of them accessible and available for everyone. The concept of UI can be applied to small designs such as stationery and larger ones such as public spaces.
 
Universal design not only makes Tang live a more convenient life but helps different kinds of people, such as the elderly and the youngsters who are injured. One third of a person’s lifetime can be regarded as “disabled,” including the time of infancy, old age, pregnancy, sickness, and injuries. UI is not only for the disabled but for everyone. “Maybe one day you will need it.” After understanding more about UI, the thought of promoting UI in Taiwan began to grow in Tang’s mind.
 
Tang read the regulations on the establishment of foundations. There were various limitations for different kinds of foundations, and the lowest capital needed was 5 million NT dollars. Tang didn’t even have 50 thousand. However, he thought that this was a very meaningful thing, and he wouldn’t give up so soon.

Creating a Free Space

For the establishment of the foundation, Tang Feng-Cheng made much effort. He finally encountered a big helper—Chen, Ai-Ling, the CEO of Fubon Cultural and Educational Foundation. Chen provided Tang an office and a 1-million-NT-dollar check to support him.
 
On Jan, 23, 2005, Tang’s foundation was officially founded. It was on the World Freedom Day. The name of the foundation, the Foundation of Universal Design Education (FUDE), came from a verse in the Bible—John 8:32, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The word “freedom” could mean many things. With freedom, people would not feel limited and constrained. With freedom, they could devote themselves to what they love and pursue their dream. “Space” was another important concept. The concept of “obstacle free” could not fully satisfy the basic needs of people because sometimes obstacles stemmed from a lack of space, both physically and psychologically. Not only disabled people but everyone needed their own “free space.” 
 
“Creating a free space, freeing everyone’s mind” became the motto of the foundation.      
 
The foundation set up the Universal Design Award, and Tang had a difficult time promoting it. The promotion lasted 8 month, and Tang went to all design departments in the colleges in Taiwan to introduce the awards to students. However, the foundation only received about 30 pieces of works three days before the deadline. Tang was disappointed and worried that everything he did would be in vain. But on the day before the deadline, everything had changed. They received more than 600 pieces of work on that single day. It was not until that moment did Tang Feng-Cheng believed that his efforts have paid off.
 
Today, universal design has become the mandatory courses of many design departments in the colleges in Taiwan. More and more emphasis is put on universal design by businessmen, officials and scholars. In the formulation of government budget, universal design is also included. Tang’s success is a rare case in Taiwan’s social movement. Also, the concept of universal design is now present in the questions of the national exam

Promoting UD, Benefiting People

The concept of universal design was also accepted by the public sectors. In 2010, the Taiwan Railways Administration set up a research group for universal design. It was the first time that the concept of UD was combined with the railway service in Taiwan. The change would provide the passengers with a better travelling experience. The reason why Tang Feng-Cheng introduced the concept of UD to Taiwan Railways was his terrible experiences of taking the train. Disabled people had to rely on the slope to get on the train, and if the staff was careless, it would be very easy for the wheelchair to slip backwards. And if the slope could not arrive on time, the disabled passenger would miss the train.
 
Tang took part in the conferences held by Taiwan Railway and promoted the concept of universal design. His opinion was accepted by the officials, and a universal design research group was set up by the director Fan Chih-Ku.
 
Aside from Taiwan Railways, Tang Feng-Cheng also introduced UD to the Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR). “If I can take the high speed rail, my vitality and mobility will be greatly increased.” said Tang. When common people want to travel, there are a lot of transportation to choose from, but this is not the case for disabled people. It is impossible for a disabled person to take a one-day trip before the HSR is available, but now their dreams come true. Until now, Tang has taken the HSR for more than 300 times, and he enjoyed visiting all the beautiful places in Taiwan.
 
Helping people can be easier than you think. Tang Feng-Cheng devotes himself to the society and enriches people’s life. His life is filled with laughter, tears, and dreams. People around Tang are always touched by his courage and perseverance, because he is a man who are not afraid of challenges and make miracles.
 
Tang Feng-Cheng always tells people around him, “My disability doesn’t stop me from enjoying life. Instead, I learn to be more optimistic and altruistic. I believe that the further I go, the broader the world will be.”