Accessibility in Taiwan
Navigating Taiwan's crowded streets in a wheelchair can be challenging, but it's becoming more accessible. Recently constructed (and planned) inner city districts have wider pedestrian pathways with designated mobility lanes, and legislation is in place to ensure greater accessibility to all public and private businesses and spaces. Away from major centres, though, pavements and sidewalks can be intermittent and cluttered.
In addition to the infrastructural improvements made in Taiwan's major cities, the government is actively promoting the Barrier-Free Environment Act. This legislation advocates for better access to buildings and facilities for individuals with disabilities. Nevertheless, the island still faces challenges in its rural areas, where older buildings and uneven terrain may limit accessibility.
The principal airport, Taoyuan International, serves differently-abled passengers well – with free parking, large elevators and designated wheelchair lanes on walkways and roads and to Skytrain platforms. There are also dedicated courtesy counters and rental services for manual and electric wheelchairs. Public telephones and ticket machines are designed to be accessible to all.
Most taxis have space for a folding wheelchair, and there's been an increase in fully accessible 'van taxis'. It's a safe, regulated service, and drivers are generally polite and helpful. Online platforms such as Uber are also popular as they can be 25 percent cheaper than metered fares.
The government has invested heavily in barrier-free buses, and 80 percent of the fleet is accessible. They feature ramps, dedicated wheelchair space and safety belts at the front of each bus. Boarding can be time-consuming, and choosing the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) metro for most journeys is often more practical.
Metro Taipei carries over 500 million passengers a year through over 130 stops. Every station has wheelchair-accessible ticket machines, gates, elevators and waiting areas. Trained staff are also on hand to make journeys smoother and more comfortable. Tactile signage and guide paths also support the visually impaired.
Renting a car in Taiwan is easy and cost-effective, although drivers must be aged 21 or over and have an international driving permit. The roads are generally well maintained, but car hire is aimed at tourists who want to go 'off the beaten track' – as public transport infrastructure is more cost-effective and convenient.
LGBTQ+ in Taiwan
Although Taiwan is a regional leader in LGBTQ+ rights with legal recognition of same-sex marriage, the fight for full equality continues. For instance, the law currently does not allow same-sex couples to adopt children or have access to surrogacy. Moreover, societal attitudes towards LGBTQ+ individuals can still be improved, with some reports of discrimination, particularly in more traditional or rural areas.
On the streets, Taiwanese, in general, rarely show public displays of affection. Relationships are considered private in traditional culture, but younger people express themselves more openly – especially in bigger cities where same-sex couples often walk hand in hand. In the capital, Taipei, there is a lively and active LGBTQ+ community in the Ximen District near the Red House Theatre.
Gender equality in Taiwan
Taiwan has made significant strides in gender equality. For example, the Gender Equality in Employment Act passed in 2002 provides a legal basis for equal treatment and opportunity in employment, making workplace discrimination based on gender illegal. The government also implemented a gender quota system in politics, which has resulted in an increased number of women serving in political leadership roles.
Modern Taiwanese society aims to achieve freedom, equality, democracy and human rights for all: Gender equality has also become a universal value. The promotion of laws, policies and dialogue around diversity in Taiwanese society has better enabled women to succeed in all walks of life. These include educational opportunities, rights at work, social welfare, and increased involvement in private enterprise and national government decision-making.
Women in leadership in Taiwan
The UN's equality index ranks Taiwan ranks first in Asia and 6th worldwide. There remains a gap in participation and pay between men and women, though the gap is reduced year by year. A social stereotype still exists that men study more science subjects and women study the arts. Still, overall, research shows women in Taiwan enjoy greater equality of opportunity than their peers in Japan or Singapore.
The status of women in leadership in Taiwan has improved over the years, exemplified by Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's first female president, serving since 2016. Despite the traditional stereotypes that still exist, more women are taking up leadership roles in science and technology fields, breaking the gender barriers in these traditionally male-dominated sectors.
Mental health in Taiwan
While mental health has been a somewhat taboo topic in traditional Taiwanese society, there has been a positive trend towards openness and acceptance, particularly in urban areas and among younger generations. There's a growing network of mental health facilities and support services, including government-run clinics and helplines such as Taiwan Lifeline International.
A stigma remains around mental illness, although less so in international corporate culture. Post-pandemic, many multilingual online resources have become available to broaden support services.
Unconscious bias in Taiwan
Taiwanese culture is a vibrant blend of its original roots and an immigrant society that's grown over the past 400 years. Cultural awareness is one of tolerance and freedom – manifested in openness to others, respect for differences, mutual understanding and valuing Taiwan's traditions.
Despite the overarching tolerance and cultural acceptance, unconscious bias persists in some areas. To combat such biases, the government introduced the Employment Service Act, which outlaws employment discrimination based on age, race, colour, nationality, sex, marital status, family responsibilities or any other discriminating factor.
Diversification of workforce in Taiwan
Data shows Taiwan enjoys relatively good workplace diversity, although many say they suffer inequality of opportunity because of their age or physical appearance. 97 percent of the population is Han Chinese, with just 0.1 percent of residents being Westerners. Taiwan is using its Foreign Professional Talent Introduction and Employment Promotion Act to broaden diversity rates, including race, religion, gender and beliefs.
Safety in Taiwan
Taiwan is one of the safest places in the world. Crime rates are very low and are primarily associated with petty offences such as pickpocketing at festivals or night markets. The government's initiatives, such as CCTV systems in public places and 'crime mapping' for police officers, have significantly contributed to this. Police are friendly, efficient and supportive and will enforce the law with clarity and commitment when needed. While walking late at night alone is generally very safe, walking with another person or in a small group whenever possible is still advisable.
Women's safety in Taiwan
Taiwan has focused on enhancing women's safety in recent years. Numerous initiatives have been implemented, such as women-only carriages on certain train lines during rush hours, as well as better lighting for public areas and the installation of CCTV cameras. Additionally, Taiwan's Social and Family Affairs Administration provides a toll-free hotline for women in danger or in need of assistance.
While local society can still be considered relatively conservative, women can typically dress appropriately for the weather and according to their style. It's quite common in Taiwan for both men and women to stare at someone who has not dressed modestly, but there is little or no danger of confrontation. City centres and public transport are comparatively safe places for women day and night.
Calendar initiatives in Taiwan
February 28: Peace Memorial Day
March 8: International Women's Day
Late September – Early October*: Mid-Autumn Festival
October: Taiwan LGBTQ+ Pride Month
October 10: National Day/Double Tenth Day
November 20: Transgender Day of Remembrance
December 10: Human Rights Day
*Note: Lunar dates changes each year based on the lunar calendar