ALS patient wins Taiwan President’s education award

Engineer Wang Hsuan designed accessible barrier-free spaces for people with impairments

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The Ice Bucket Challenge raised millions for research into ALS. (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A woman engineer who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS has won the president’s education award due to her efforts to design environments friendlier to people with impairments.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. Patients gradually lose the possibility to walk around, and later also find they cannot move any other body parts, leading to a loss of speech and of the capability to eat independently. Speaking, swallowing and breathing become impossible, and no cure is known.

Wang Hsuan (王瑄), 42, studied in Great Britain and worked as a senior engineer at contract chipmaker United Microelectronics Corporation for five years before being forced to resign due to disease, the United Daily News reported.

Instead of capitulating in the face of the ailment, Wang went back to school and prepared work on a Ph.D. She’s been lecturing since 2015 about accessible barrier-free space design, with her work being presented at seminars in Taiwan, Japan, Great Britain and Canada.

With her assistance, National Taipei University of Technology planned accessible barrier-free bedrooms at a dormitory, the United Daily News reported.

What she did, was to integrate her personal impairment with what she learned in order to benefit even more people, a professor said.

Wang is one of 56 people to be awarded the presidential education prize at a ceremony on July 6.

U.S. baseball player Lou Gehrig and British cosmologist Stephen Hawking are among the most prominent victims of ALS. From 2014, the “ice bucket challenge” campaign raised millions to fund research into the disease.