Heller Profiles

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Lisa Wang

Taiwan • Professor and Library Director, National Chung Cheng University

PhD '91

The Impact of Heller Alumni around the World: Taiwan

Perhaps no one has done more for disability policy in Taiwan than Lisa Wang, PhD 91

Fall 2011

For 20 years, Lisa Wang has been a major influence on disability policy, advocacy and research in Taiwan and Asia. And she credits the Heller School with preparing her for her long, successful career.

Wang, who had polio when she was 11 months old, has always had difficulty with mobility, but she has not let that hold her back. Her resume is impressive. She helped establish the first social welfare program at a university in Taiwan. She participated in two major disabilities legislation revisions, under which policy was changed to a rights-based system adopted by the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health and the World Health Organization. She earned research grants from her country's National Science Council more than 17 times, and she chaired three large-scale, household-based surveys on the Taiwanese disabled population. She has traveled to 35 countries, presenting her findings and leading training workshops. She organized the first Asian Pacific Regional Congress of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities, and she won that organization's Distinguished Service Award. Wang serves on the boards of several international disability studies journals and is chief editor of the Taiwanese Journal of Social Welfare. In addition to her teaching and research, Wang somehow found the time and energy to take over the role of library director at National Chung Cheng University in 2008.

The Heller School, she says, has always been a source of inspiration for her. When Wang first joined the National Chung Cheng University, it was upon her recommendation that the fledgling social welfare department adopted an interdisciplinary approach like Heller's to create its program. It recruited faculty with backgrounds in sociology, politics and economics, with a goal of providing students with a broad view on policy.

"Long story short, Heller School's training provided me with the vision of how to develop a policy school in Taiwan," she says.

Today, Wang has turned her attention back to theory and has recruited a team to write a book about disability study in the Chinese language.

"It is time to introduce disability study to the local academic community," she says.

Perhaps no one has done more for disability policy in Taiwan than Wang. Much has changed in her country; however, she says, overall disability policy, just like welfare policy in Taiwan, does not have clear direction and goals.

"People with disabilities in Taiwan have lower education levels, lower income status and lower participation rates in various social activities, with less than sufficient transportation support to assist them in getting to school, the hospital and social events."

And, she adds, public attitudes still lag behind. "People from Asian countries tend to react like I need help or assume that my condition makes me dependent, while Western colleagues assume that I am an independent person, and they will help only when asked."

Even as her mobility declines and she adapts to getting around with the assistance of a scooter or wheelchair, Wang only gains deeper insights into her work and who she is as a person. "No matter what my physical condition," she says, "mentally and spiritually, I remain the same."

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