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Barrier-Free in Korea and in the World
Written by Seyun Bang | Published. 2019.09.08 16:15 | Count : 1155

In 2015, the United Nations proposed a set of global goals known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The SDG consists of 17 different goals that all member states of the United Nations should strive to achieve by the year 2030 in an effort to make the world a better place to live in for all. Some of the goals include ending poverty, reducing inequality, and protecting the environment. Among these seventeen different goals, goal number eleven targets, according to the United Nations website, “to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons” by 2030. Specifically, the 193 member nations of the UN are putting their best foot forward in an effort to achieve accessible travel and transportation for the disabled. 

[Facilities for the Disabled in the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, photo by Seyun Bang]

According to the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM), the KFEM is “a civic environmental organization that takes progressive actions to support core values of life, peace, ecology, and bottom-up participation in harmony with Mother Nature.” Knowing that the inclusion of the disabled is vital for sustainable development of the humankind the KFEM started a project for “barrier-free traveling.” “Barrier-free” is classified as a social responsibility, having the definition of “designed or planned so that people with disabilities are not prevented from using something” according to the Cambridge Dictionary. Recently, the word barrier-free has expanded its definition as the word defines not only the need for infrastructure that facilitates the movement of the disabled, but also the need for the equal rights of activity, such as traveling, for both the disabled and non-disabled. Thus, in an effort to pursue a barrier-free community, the KFEM has been working with the local Korea Blind Union and has taken the blind to listen to birds in nature since 2015.

In order to make travel less burdensome and time-consuming for the blind, the KFEM wants implementation of accessible infrastructure in the bird listening site. In the process of doing so, I was lucky enough to take part in contributing to this meaningful project of taking the first step of barrier-free traveling in Korea. Due to my ability to use both Korean and English fluently, I was asked to translate a book called Barrier-Free Travel by Candy B. Harrington. The translation was to help the project workers to gain a sense of how the developed countries that had already started taking “barrier-free” as a pressing social issue approach the matter. 

Over my translation process, I learned that in the United States, the physically challenged have a burdensome amount of factors to consider before and during their travels. The disabled often have to make countless phone calls to airports, hotels, transportation companies and more to learn their likelihood of access to planes, buses, hotels, and more. They are also likely to face challenges during their travels, such as being denied access to an airport due to the unavailability of an accessible bus, even if they do come fully prepared. They still encounter such onerous problems while traveling in the United States, where many of their rights are protected under law and accessibility is prevalent throughout. It is ironic because the disabled have the same rights as the not-disabled, yet the things we take for granted are daunting challenges for them. I further realized that the disabled in Korea, where awareness of the “barrier-free” issue is still low and little government assistance is provided, are likely to face even bigger obstacles even in the smallest travels.  Increased awareness and formal implementation of accessible infrastructure and transportation are in great need. Thus, as a member of this society, I plan to research more about the status of barrier-free travel in Korea and any government policies on it to see what I can do to improve the issue. 

[Examples of Transportation for the Disabled That Should Be More Widespread, photo provided by the Seoul Facilities Corporation]



Seyun Bang
Grade 10 
Choate Rosemary Hall

Seyun Bang  student_reporter@dherald.com

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