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Accessibility in Korea

November 6, 2014

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I’m not sure if we emphasized this enough in our video, so I’ll mention it again here: our accounts of how Korea’s accessibility might be highly inaccurate, simply because it’s not something we deal with as fairly able-bodied people. The same way how we can’t tell you what it’s like being in an interracial relationship in Korea, we can’t really tell you all too much about accessibility in Korea. Hopefully, though, our few anecdotes and limited experiences can get a conversation going on the matter.

When it came to our schools, we didn’t teach anyone in wheelchairs in Korea, for starters, and our schools were equipped differently. My school had ramps to the front door and an elevator for each of the floors as well, while Martina’s school did not have any ramps, and the elevator was not easy to get to for the main building. The secondary building, where she taught her classes, did not have an elevator, and it had a really steep ramp to go up. Her students on crutches had a lot of difficulty getting up the stairs as well, while I remember the students I had on crutches using the elevator to get up floors.

Otherwise, it also seems like a lot of the smaller shops around Seoul aren’t wheelchair accessible. The restaurants beside our studio, like Burger B, and the Kyoto Restaurant, all have stairs with no ramps. The Customellow shop beside us also has no ramps. The Monster Pizza has no ramps. Everything has stairs. Again, I think that a major part of the challenge is how tightly compact all of the stores are with one another, and also how Korea is so mountainous. There’s not enough space between buildings and there’s not enough flatness. Does that make sense? I’m sure there are proper architectural terms for this that we’re unaware of.

Another thing we noticed, and this was something Soo Zee experienced as well when she was in a leg cast once: when you’re on the subway on crutches, people might not give up their seats for you. Neither Soo Zee or Martina had anyone offer their spots for them. Maybe they just had bad luck. If you had it any different here in Korea we’d love to hear it.

Funny story about handicapped parking from today: right after we filmed this we had to rush off to Gangnam for a YouTube presentation thingy we’re taking part of. We drove into the building’s parking lot, and took the last spot. Right as we got out of a car, we saw a guy in an Audi pull up into the handicap parking spot in front of us and walk away. I thought to myself “hey! This is perfectly appropriate for today’s video!” so I pulled out my camera to take a picture, but then he came back to the car and I put my camera away. BUT IT HAPPENED!

So, that’s it for this week’s TL;DR! We actually found a couple of really useful links as well: This site shows a bunch of pictures about what wheelchair accessibility looks like in Korea, while this site links to more pictures as well. These pictures are very different from our experiences as well. We talked about how difficult it was to use the buses in Korea, and here you see quite the opposite. We haven’t actually seen buses do that, but I’m sure it exists if there are pictures of it.

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Accessibility in Korea

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  1. I live in Northern Minnesota. When I used to attend college at Bemidji State University, one of my education classes was about adaptations for the classroom. Part of that class was going around the BSU campus in wheelchairs for 5 hours. Bemidji State has been heralded as one of the most handicapped accessible universities in Minnesota. After 5 hours in a wheelchair on that campus (Which, side note, is right by a lake so part of it is on a hill!! Also, it has a tunnel system for when it gets cold, but you aren’t getting in there if you are in a wheelchair)- I really feel bad for anyone going to any other university in MN, if BSU is one of the best for accessibility. :/

    (Another side note, I was taking music classes at the time, and had to be carried down into the band room, which was basically in a pit. They now have an elevator to get into the room.)

    6 years ago
  2. I think Sweden is quite wheelchair accessible. The sidewalks are usually quite broad, so a wheelchair can fit without taking up the entire sidewalk. Most buses have a wider entrence in the middle, which leads up to an empty space which is specifically there for either wheelchairs or prams, the buses also lowers themselves in these cases (this is however not true when it comes to personally owned buses). Elevators is a problem though, it is forced by law to have elevators for buildings which are above 3 stories high, so many buildings (apartment buildings) whith three or two floors won’t have elevators. However public buildings, offices and similar buildings do have elevators somewhere.

    6 years ago
  3. Where I live (Adelaide, Australia), we have recently gotten new trains (electric yay!). All the seats are blue except for a couple near the door which are red, and they are seats reserved for the elderly, pregnant ladies, and the disabled. I think its really nice idea, and I know they have the same thing in Japan. They have also painted wheelchair signs on the station so when a person in a wheelchair needs assistance, the driver comes out and pulls out a ramp so they can get into the train! they even have their own wheelchair area on the train! Its really sweet :3 but the problem is that the buses can’t do the same, because of the reasons you discussed in your video :( but I’m glad that their is more awareness for the disabled now :)

    6 years ago
  4. in hawaii all of the buses have seats or space of disability people…usually the bus driver would pull out a floor(?) that will help the disabilities to just walk or wheel in(?) to it with a wheelchair..after that they would help them to the space in the bus and and belt them up so they would’t move, to get out they would tell the driver where to pull them out and the driver will help them again to leave the bus.

    6 years ago
  5. Simon, you definitely know more about people’s behavior in Korea than I do, so Audi guy was probably being a jerkface. But also, please, please, people–if someone can walk, it doesn’t mean they aren’t disabled, and it doesn’t mean that they aren’t allowed to park in a disabled space if they have a permit. That is a huge problem for the disability community here in the US–I have EDS like Martina, and arthritis, and I have a handicap permit for my car. I’m also a 23 year old, healthy-looking girl. I’ve been harassed, assaulted, had police called on me, and had my car vandalized because people think I don’t “look” “disabled enough.” I get just as angry as the next guy when I see somebody without a valid permit parking in a handicapped space–but before you play vigilante and go all Rambo on them, please consider that the person who walks out of their car might have a disability you can’t actually see.

    6 years ago
    • Oh, no: I fully know this. My father is disabled, and he has a handicapped permit for his car, and he can walk as well. He’s had people confront him about it as well, when he parks his car and walks away, and he points to the permit. We didn’t confront this guy for similar reasons :D

      6 years ago
  6. Here, in Hawaii, we also live on a mountain, an active one at that. So it is mandatory to have some form of handicap accessibility everywhere. From movie theaters to stores. Some of the buses don’t look like they’ll be able to take handicapped people, but there are seats inside that have wider leg room and are marked with the handicap symbol. Most of the buses have steps, but I am pretty sure the driver would just get out and help fold up the wheelchair. It would be pretty shocking if he/she didn’t.
    At my school we have a two golf carts that students can drive other students on crutches around to their next class since our campus is fairly spread out. One of the only perks about being on crutches during school. ^^;

    6 years ago
  7. I live in the Southeastern US.

    My dad recently had spinal surgery and he’s not as bad off as some people are, but he has permanent nerve, bone, and muscle damage. While he’s not wheelchair bound, he does need assistance and can’t walk long distances. This has really opened my eyes to the accessibility of where I live. My town has a great reputation for being accessible; it’s a retirement town. It’s all spread out and there are no buildings over three stories anywhere.

    Our grocery stores have those motorized riding carts, and now that my dad needs them, I notice more and more often that people will use them when they’re just feeling lazy. These people are also the worst at not returning these carts for people to use after them. It’s kind of an unspoken rule that you bring it back, park it, and plug it in to charge if you’re able. People who just want to play with them or don’t want to walk the 50 feet to the milk don’t even care if they leave it right at the register. I guess this is kind of the “inside equivalent” to taking the handicapped parking space.

    6 years ago
  8. Hi Simon and Martina,

    I’d like to say thank you for writing this, however please do not use the term “wheel chair bound” as it’s really offensive to those who are using wheel chairs and it’s an ableist term for many people with disabilities. People who use wheelchairs are not bound to it. Many people need wheelchairs as an aid, but other wise can still walk or stand up. There isn’t a one type fits all with disabilities and wheelchairs. Just like how not everyone who has a permit to use the disability parking lots uses a wheel chair (there are many reasons such as chronic illness, deaf or hard of hearing, auto-immune diseases, and etc. Not all disabilities are visible)

    I’m saying this as someone who is not disabled, however I have friends and family members who are disabled and it’s not an acceptable term in the community. Instead, the term “person with a disability” works better, because you’re putting the person first before their disability.

    You guys have a large audience, and what I ask is that you guys write in the annotations and in the description that it’s not an acceptable thing to say and what not so to not spread misinformation and to not spread ableist language that hurts others.

    Here are some more resources that explain more on it if you, or your fans would like to read up on it.

    List of disability-related terms with negative connotations Via Wikipedia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_disability-related_terms_with_negative_connotations

    Stop Saying ‘Wheelchair-Bound’ And Other Outdated And Offensive Terms To People With Disabilities via The huffington post
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/01/how-to-talk-to-person-with-disability_n_4191830.html

    The Words We Use When We Talk about People with Disabilities: What’s so bad about “handicapped” and “wheelchair-bound?” Via Independence Care system
    http://www.icsny.org/blog/the-words-we-use-when-we-talk-about-people-with-disabilities-whats-so-bad-about-handicapped-and-wheelchair-bound/

    Showing Respect by Being Direct Via Mobility International USA
    http://www.miusa.org/resource/tipsheet/respect

    6 years ago
  9. I live in Suwon in Korea, which is just south of Seoul and the green buses here, G-Bus (Gyeonggi-Bus), are sometimes handicap accessible. The waiting screen at the bus stop labels the buses that are handicap accessible with a wheelchair icon. The handicap accessible buses have lowering platforms by the front and side door and an area where the seats can be moved to fit a wheelchair. However, I saw a person in a wheelchair get on one of these buses before and the bus driver said the platform didn’t work or it took to long to use it. Anyway, two people had to come and help lift the handicapped person into the bus and again later when he left. All the other Koreans on the bus didn’t really know what to do so I don’t think handicapped people use the buses that often. I guess I wouldn’t either if the don’t lower the platforms. Geez.

    6 years ago
  10. I moved to Cambodia this year and, holy crap, some parts are barely accessible for able-bodied persons, let alone the handicapped. There are quite a lot of disabled people here (no healthcare, no public safety initiatives, stray landmines) but the only people you see tend to be the ones who don’t have family to support them and have to go out begging to survive. Everyone else, I guess, has to stay at home. It’s all pretty heartbreaking.

    6 years ago
  11. I think here in the US it really depends on where you live. Almost all places that I’ve ever been to seem to be built to meet certain standards for accessibility but the extent to which this happens can really vary. In my home town in Wisconsin handicapped parking spaces, restrooms, wheelchair accessible buses, and other facilities were there but they weren’t a big deal. Most people didn’t park in the handicapped spaces unless they had the little pass to do so. And everyone just uses whatever stall they seem to in the bathrooms, it never really seemed to matter much. And the buses could lower and extend ramps for people with disabilities. But all these things were minor and in the background really and I honestly never saw them used much except when I was in elementary school and went to the school that also housed the best special education facilities.

    Now when I went to college on the other hand things were a little different. My school jumps through hoops to make things accessible to all students. There are special shuttles, wheelchair accessible routes with special signs, emails that go out every year about it, special accommodations if you live in the housing, and so much more. It was almost a bit of a shock for me since back in my home town I never really paid attention to the accessibility features that were present. I guess the bigger the organization the more serious they are about following all those regulations in place for people with disabilities. Only thing lacking here where I’m at school is parking spaces since the city is larger and older than my home town, so just less parking available in general.

    Still though I’ve never seen people take any actions like chewing people out or keying cars for parking where they shouldn’t. I know I personally will frown and think badly of the person but I try not to judge. Some people can suffer from disabilities that aren’t apparent right away so it’s not mine or anyone else’s place to judge that. Hopefully if they are parking there they need that space.

    6 years ago
  12. Hmm, where I live in the US (Houston, TX), things are pretty accessible for the disabled especially since we’re a really big city as well. Although being in such a big city means that there will always be “righteous public defenders” and they’re literally the most irritating beings the ever exist.

    My brother is blind, autistic, and has problems walking as well thus my family always carries a handicap sign to hang up onto the rearview mirror when we’re going out. But one time, after we parked and got out of the car, a random lady that was walking by with her groceries suddenly stopped in front of our car and demanded my parents to move the car because my brother “was just faking it” and “wasn’t blind” but when we pointed out that it was very obvious that my brother wasn’t “faking it”, she made up an excuse about how our license plate didn’t have the handicap sign on it and thus we were “still wrong”.
    It was literally the most frustrating thing because the lady was so bloody adamant that she was right and wouldn’t leave us alone. We ended up having to call my uncle (who’s a well-known lawyer in the Chinese/Vietnamese community) to come over and help us out; it was so embarrassing and utterly humiliating because there were so many onlookers that my mom burst into tears as my dad had to restrain himself from yelling at this woman to just leave us alone while trying to explain that we were doing nothing wrong.

    6 years ago
  13. I met you at your cafe opening, I was the girl on the crutches. I totally agree with what you said about Hongdae, I felt like I was going to fall over trying to get to your cafe while balancing on my crutches. I will take the small issues I faced in Korea on my crutches rather than what it was like in Japan. Two days after I twisted my ankle I had a trip to Japan planned and, disgusting humid weather aside, getting around in the Japanese subway on crutches is probably the WORST and HARDEST thing I have ever had to do in my life. Elevator? What elevator? Then if there was one, it was hidden behind a wall in a dark corner with a teeny tiny sign. So not helpful.

    6 years ago
    • I’m not totally sure about the subway in Japan (you were probably in Tokyo, right?), but I know that the regular train stations all have elevators, but they are annoyingly displaced from the major exits and whatnot. Sometimes they can be weirdly placed all the way at the other end of the platforms or tucked away near a bathroom or behind the escalators. It’s super unhelpful if you’re not used to getting around in Japan. :P

      6 years ago
  14. There is so much to be said here, it’s hard to know where to begin. Maybe I should start with the name Kang Won-rae. If you’ve heard of DJ Koo (Koo Jun-yup), you should definitely hear of his long-time friend and sometime “partner in crime” Kang Won-rae. They’ve been acquainted since junior high in the early ’80s, and after their military service they turned their shared love of hip-hop and dance into work as back-up dancers, followed by being signed to their own contract by Kim Chang-hwan of Kim’s Creative Harmony as the duo Clon (클론). Their first album “Are You Ready” came out in 1996 with the hit singles “I (난)” and “Kkungttari shabara (꿍따리 샤바라)” which are still much loved among Koreans of a certain age. (The first K-pop song I ever heard was “Kkungttari shabara” in the summer of ’96.) Their second album didn’t quite have as much of an impact, but 1999’s album #3 “Funky Together” gave us “Funky Tonight”, “Come Back(돌아와)” and “Love and Soul (사랑과 영혼)”. Their fourth album was released in 2000 with the promoted songs “First Love (初戀/초련)”, “Lie (거짓말)” and “New World (신세계)”, an ode to the Internet. Their plans for a fifth album were cut short when Kang Won-rae was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident in Seoul where a U-turning driver (possibly drunk) cut him off, causing Kang to fall down and skid back-first into the side of the car. During his recovery, Kang had considered moving to the US, but his doctors advised against it because he would become accustomed to accommodations in the public that would not be available in Korea (this was 2000-01, mind you). Kang stayed in Korea to recover and Koo Jun-yup released a solo album of some note but apparently not much impact. After more of a hiatus, the pair came back to the scene with their fifth and so far last album “Victory” in 2005. The promoted songs from this album were first “My Love Song Yi (내 사랑 송이)”, their tribute to mutual friend and Kang’s wife Kim Song (formerly of the dance group Kola, alongside Park Jun Hee), who stayed by him during his long recovery; and then “Cry of Isolation (소외된 외침)”, a call to arms for accessibility by the disabled, which video incorporated footage from an underground VHS for the disability-activist community. Clon performed a couple of concerts for this album, with the stage performance integrating wheelchairs — though with mostly fully-able dancers in them. Kang and Koo have gone their separate ways in the arts, with Koo Jun-yup becoming DJ Koo, and Kang Won-rae starting the performance company Kkungttari Yurangdan which employs disabled performers and goes out to wherever they can to spread the message of inclusion for the physically disabled.

    Clon also started a dance school in Gangneung, Gangwon-do that is still operational.

    6 years ago
    • Another name to know here is Park Kyung Seok, who is one of Korea’s leading disability activists for all manner of disability, not just mobility impairments.

      Maybe instead of those dinky chair lifts which aren’t always reliable (then again, reliability in Korean mechanics is never guaranteed), the Seoul subway should look at something like this:

      http://youtu.be/eoBfe8t3Tn4

      You might want to watch it on mute, though.

      It’s an inclinator at the CityPlace DART Rail Station in Dallas, Texas, the only publicly-owned underground rail station in Texas. Huntington Station on the Washington Metro also has one.

      6 years ago
  15. Paris is painfully not wheelchair friendly. Because it’s a very old city, most of the roads and buildings are built without accessibility in mind. The pavements are narrow and uneven, although the crossing places have a flattened area for wheelchairs and those warning strips on the ground for eyesight-challenged people. The subway unfortunately, being one of the oldest subway systems in the world, is all stairs and escalators. Very few have elevators. It’s bering renovated slowly, but since there are hundreds of stations, it’s taking years. Buses however have a retractable ramp that people using wheelchairs can use.
    My high school had ramps and elevators and everything. My university has been renovated recently to make everything accesible, which they’ve been able to do without damaging the beautiful building, which I think is very cool.
    Here is the thing: pretty much all of France is part of the cultural legacy, so renovating buildings, even to make them accessible, is sometimes illegal. My grandparents live in Versailles, close to the palace, so their house is part of the protected area. A few years ago. after my grandpa had had a few heart attacks, they wanted to build an elevator for him to go up the 3 floors. Well, they did not get permission, because it would alter the building too much. They managed to set up a moving seat up the stairs for him, but that’s nowhere near as convenient. Kinda sucked.

    6 years ago
  16. Chicago buses are pretty accessible. They have hydraulics that lower the step (also used for the elderly) and seats that lift up to become wheelchair seating. If you sit in the seat when it’s down, it’s with the understanding that you will be required to get up if a wheelchair boards. Sometimes parents use the wheelchair seating for their strollers.

    6 years ago
  17. I have a funny story about all this.

    I live in Canada. My school was built in the 60s, before anybody was too worried about whether people in wheelchairs would be able to attend the school. I guess someone at the school board had spoken up about it, because this year, all the boys’ bathrooms got wheelchair buttons to open the doors to enter the washrooms.

    Just the boys’ bathrooms. Not the girls’.

    Some of these bathrooms are on the second floor. My school has no elevators, and there doesn’t seem to be any plans to put some in, so I don`t understand how whoever installed these buttons thought the wheelchair users would get to the second floor.

    And while I’ve never been in any of the boys’ washrooms, I’ve been told that there aren’t even any wheelchair accessible stalls.

    To add to all this, the buttons don’t even work. I really don’t see what the point of all it was.

    6 years ago
  18. Amy

    I think even if someone can get into a store that has ramps and elevators and such, navigating the store will be very difficult. I’ve been in a lot of Korean stores that have the narrowest aisles that might fit two people. I can’t see how someone with crutches or a wheelchair would be able to move around these stores. Of course the major stores like E-Mart or Home Plus and the department stores are fine, but smaller shops have no space in them. Everything the shop is trying to sell is crammed into a tiny space with no extra room.

    A funny story about American handicap accessibility. People have been mentioning the ADA which states building have to have automatic doors and ramps and such for guests and customers, but there is also something called universal law. There are things that can also be used by everybody no matter what ability they have. I was in a hospital on my university’s campus once and there was a push button for the automatic doors and it said “For Handicaps Only”. No. Automatic doors, just like the dip in sidewalks at crosswalks, can be used by anyone. If I had an armload of boxes or something and couldn’t open the door with my hands, I’m going to use that button to open the door for me. That’s universal law.

    6 years ago
  19. I started to watch this video (which was awesome btw) and the minute Martina and Simon start talking my 3yr old granddaughter starts asking where is spudgy and dr meemers. She has named some of the toys after them. So now she has a dolls named spudgy and dr. meemers lol

    6 years ago
  20. I teach elementary school in Daejeon and I teach two students in wheelchairs. I should mention that my school is specially set up for students with physical and mental handicaps so I think it’s more accessible than most schools. There are ramps to every door and every room in the school is wheelchair accessible. However, the elevator is way down the end of the hall. It’s near the therapy room, which is a good idea in theory but it adds five minutes to my handicapped students’ travel time and means they’re always late.

    6 years ago
  21. I live in the mid-US and I feel like it’s incredibly accessible here. We have elevators and ramps etc, and the parking seems to be adequate and in the correct location, though I do think some places (like the grocery store) should have more parking for those who need the extra help. What I do think is unique is the idea that, at least in this context, that you need to comply with ADA rules to prevent a lawsuit. We have the benefit of living in a house provided by the university that employs my parents. When the house was bought, many things (removing the sunken living room, building a ramp, building an accessible bathroom) were all done, to some extent, to remove the possibility of a lawsuit against the university. While I am very glad these things happened and they were done so well it is hardly noticeable that they are new additions, I think this concept of ‘preventative suing’ is a factor in complying with ADA standards. This is only my observations in the altering of my home though.

    6 years ago
  22. New Zealand shops, restaurants and pubs have to be completely accessible. If your establishment isn’t and gets a complaint you have to make it accessible or the government will shut you down.
    I saw an article in the paper about a nice club that was being forced to close because there was no possible way for them to make it accessible and they had received a complaint about access

    6 years ago
  23. I work as a civil engineer in Texas and we do a lot of work fixing parking lots to make them more accessible and compliant with ADA laws. It’s astounding how many businesses will put their accessible parking on the far sides of the parking lot, behind the actual building, or stack spaces next to each other (making it impossible to actually take out and set up a wheelchair or motorscooter next to the vehicle). It’s also kind of incredible how many businesses don’t have accessible parking at all. I’m not sure how prevalent this is in other states. Hopefully not as bad as it is in Texas. I guess the one thing we have going for us is I almost never see able-bodied people parking in the accessible spaces. Like you said, it’s a huge faux pas here and I can’t remember the last time I actually witnessed it.

    I think it’s really strange there aren’t stricter ADA laws in Korea, but I guess being built on a mountain makes it a little hard to have spacious, level parking lots. It would also explain why there aren’t many ramps, and why you couldn’t build one to the cafe. That doesn’t really apply here in Texas and there are some people who are bringing huge lawsuits against big companies for not complying to Texas ADA accessibility laws.

    Some buses here have the hydraulic lifts for wheelchairs and motorscooters, but not all of them, and public transportation can be fairly limited even around major cities. I’m surprised we don’t have an ADA taxi service here and I’d really love to see one implemented. It breaks my heart when I see someone in a wheelchair or motorscooter that is unable to cross the street because there aren’t proper ramps down from the sidewalk. I also really like that they have sliding doors and emergency buttons in bathrooms in Korea. Sliding doors might not seem like a big deal to some people, but I think little things like that can really improve someone’s quality of life.

    6 years ago
    • The lack of accessibility legislation in Korea (historically anyway) has more to do with how Koreans deal with physical imperfection. Let’s just say they are known (rightly or wrongly) for dealing with imperfection rather, erm, imperfectly.

      6 years ago
  24. I’m in Canada, and hadicap accecibility is pretty good.

    Except in Vancouver and Richmond, we have a lot of assholes who’s parents pay for such fancy cars. And most of the time, these assholes take up the hadicap parking spots. Or the expectant mothers spot, or multiple spots b/c they cant park shit.

    One time, my boyfriend and I were getting cheesecake and after parking, I noticed that 2 cars were parking in the haddicap spot. One was a normal Honda or Toyota car, and the other (which was right next to me) was a fancy ass Ferari (or whatever expensive ass car. My boyfriend and I were pretty pissed.

    Oh and you can tell the guy in the fancy car just smoked since a leftover cigarette was there… I never came so much closer to keying those cars and leaving a sign saying: Hey assholes, are you mentally hadicapped.

    6 years ago
  25. A few years ago, I was in Korea and ended up spraining my ankle really badly while camping. I ended up having to have it bandaged up and I couldn’t place weight on my right foot because of the sheer pain. On my way back to Seoul I had to ride the subway for over 2 hours and no one offered to give me a seat. There was also someone behind me annoyed that I was taking too long to get on the subway; mind you, I had to haul my luggage and I was hobbling because my right foot was sprained.

    6 years ago
  26. Could you do a TL;DR about homelessness/homeless people and how common they are. From what ive seen in certain areas in London there are quite a few homeless people. The town that i lived in hardly had any homeless people. Living there for 18 years i only saw 5 homeless people. Recently i moved to cantebury and from what ive seen there are alot less homeless people here.

    6 years ago
  27. India is unfortunately not at all an accessible place for the differently-abled. Very few public buildings have wheelchair ramps or even elevators for that matter. A lot of housing complexes that were built before the 2000s are three to five storeyed so they have been built without elevators. So if you injure your leg, like Martina did, and happen to live in one of these places, you’re pretty much screwed. But I am starting to see that private offices and malls and stuff have started becoming more differently-abled friendly by putting in ramps and elevators everywhere.

    My experience with public transport is limited to the Mumbai city local train system and the bus system in Mumbai and Pune so I’m not sure if things are better in other parts of the country. Public transport is NOT AN OPTION if you’re in a wheelchair. If you’re on crutches you could probably hobble onto the handicap compartment in a train or the bus driver will wait until you have boarded the bus (with much difficulty) but that’s about it. There are no ramps at train stations, there is no way you can board a bus if you’re in a wheelchair.

    You guys talked about Seoul and accessibility for people in wheelchairs or on crutches but you didn’t talk about how accessible it is for visually or hearing impaired people. How much would you say it is?

    6 years ago
  28. Here in Manila it’s pretty much the same. Even in trains, they have an area specifically for persons with disability (we call them pwd). PWD people are also subject to discounts (I think 20% off) and they are always in priority. Like if there’s a long line and they see a PWD, they would ask them to go to the front of the line and go first. But in order to get to those perks, they need to get a card issued by the goverment :)

    6 years ago
  29. I had knee surgery while in Korea (and the hospital experience is VERY different than in North America), but also spent about two weeks on crutches. My surgery was in Busan, but I was teaching in Miryang, about 45 minutes away by train. The hospital itself was an older building on a hill and while there was a ramp from the parking lot, there were only steps to the sidewalk. (AT THE HOSPITAL!)

    There was an elevator to the subway station, so that was manageable, but there were still steps from the platform to the train itself. I can’t remember if there is an elevator from the subway station at the train station, but I remember walking up the stairs. Perhaps I couldn’t find it? The train station itself is on the second floor of a building, but there were escalators for me, and I believe an elevator as well.

    Miryang was more accommodating because it’s quite flat there, but traffic is terrible. Drivers don’t care if you can’t cross quickly, they’ll swerve around you if you don’t cross fast enough. Even though my school was quite close to my apartment, I took a taxi each day to get there. Fortunately, taxis are cheap.

    One of my students was in a wheelchair. The school had an elevator inside, but no ramp outside. He had to wait outside until the PE teacher could come and pick him up. The PE teacher carried him around to a number of places in the school that he couldn’t get to. Also, I’m not sure how the boys bathrooms were set up, but the girls’s rooms only had squat toilets, so I’ve no idea how a girl in a wheel chair would be able to use one by herself. Perhaps that is solely a lack of imagination on my part. Considering that the school was only a few years old, it seems that accessibility was just not a consideration.

    On a side note, the Lonely Planet Korea edition that I had (written by an angry man with a serious bias against the ROK) wrote that North Korea is very much more handicapped accessible than the south, so take of that what you will.

    6 years ago
  30. A friend of mine who lives in Tokyo has a blog about her everyday experiences in a wheelchair: http://www.moonrider7.com/ It’s really interesting!

    6 years ago
  31. Hey EYK, I’m one of the admins from the US Nasty facebook page. Wanted to share some insight with you. I have my masters in special education, and one of the things we learned about in college is that it’s not really a polite thing to say “confined to a wheelchair” or “wheelchair bound”. Think about it, if you couldn’t walk, the device that allows you to navigate through society isn’t holding you back from what you would have been previously doing. One of my professors rolled around in his wheelchair and conveyed how liberating it was to have wheels and not to rely on people to get him places.

    Also, I saw that someone from Europe commented on the use of handicapped. In America, the term in legislation is “handicapped” so every public accommodation, like a space, or a bathroom stall, has that name. However as of recent years, you tend not to call someone handicapped or disabled, but rather say they have a disability. The most recent language is to put the dis in disability in parenthesis so it looks like this: (dis)ability. It’s just a way to show that people have differing abilities, and even though they might need a physical accommodation doesn’t mean they are without abilities.

    I know all of this stuff because I took classes on in it college, so I’m not trying to bash you for not knowing the most pc vocabulary, but it would be cool if you tried to use this language in the future.

    6 years ago
  32. I spent two months in Korea just this summer, and I’m physically disabled.

    What you guys say in this video is fairly spot on and similar to my experiences. I began to think of it as “the destination will be easy, but the journey will be difficult.” Once you actually got to a department store or a museum, they’d usually have elevators (etc) and lots of accessibility. Getting there though…

    Taxis are definitely cheaper than NA, but I’ll also talk about non-taxi options. When I did resort to a taxi, they ranged from mildly helpful->extremely helpful. Though just like taxi drivers anywhere in the world, some were grumpy, some were chatty, some were silent, etc. I’d advise knowing a decent amount of Korean though, and make sure they start that meter!

    Subways were a mixed bag. They’d just about always have elevators between the levels, but whether there was an elevator near your exit was completely hit or miss. If there wasn’t an elevator near your exit, it might end up extending your journey and meaning you have to deal with more of Seoul roads (which means hills and bumps etc). However, unlike Martina and Soo Zee, I was always offered a place or a seat by people, so that was very positive.

    Don’t do the bus. Apparently there are good options, but I wouldn’t even bother trying.

    Another, slightly odd, thing I noticed: Even though there was heavy rains while I was there, there were not often mats or other things inside of buildings and doors to absorb water from people walking around. As many places like to wax often, combined with peoples wet shoes, the floors were sometimes extremely slick. This means (sometimes) wheelchairs can have a hard time finding traction/purchase, and it was downright an ice-skating rink on crutches. Apparently Koreans just don’t slip on wet floors??

    I spent some time in Daegu as well. I would actually say it was easier there, as it wasn’t naturally hilly like Seoul. Building entrances would be at ground level, instead of raised or lowered, etc… Everything else was pretty much the same as far as I could tell.

    Otherwise I think S&M hit on everything; and its hard to speak to every single thing without knowing particular circumstances. I certainly hope this will help someone.

    For anyone considering visiting to Korea and is concerned about these things: Do it! It can definitely be done! There will be challenges, yes. But I believe they’re all surmountable and the amazing experience is definitely worth dealing with some of the hassle!

    6 years ago
  33. I’d say the Netherlands are fairly accessible for disabled people in wheelchairs. I don’t think they can take busses, but when they want to take the train they have to go to the information stall at the train station and someone will come with them to the platform (by elevator) and they pull out this huge ramp and put it up when the train’s there. I don’t see this happen often because I can imagine it takes up a lot of time waiting in line to get their attention, then to get the ramp out etc.. but it does happen!

    For those who have seen “the Fault in our Stars”- the Anne Frank house is not wheelchair proof. My university + most malls have elevators and special washrooms so those are wheelchair proof. It really depends on where you are.

    6 years ago
  34. Wheelchair accessibility in the US is pretty accommodating. We have something called The Americans With Disability Act where it says basically every single public place has to be handicap accessible. My high school had elevators (always kept locked and only staff/faculty could unlock it) for those in wheelchairs because we had stairs. All parking lots have ramps you can go up on, every traffic light has a mini ramp on the sidewalks you can use, buses have platforms to put your wheelchair on to get onto the bus, things like that.

    6 years ago
  35. In general, the US is pretty accessible, but at my college my major is based in the basement of one of the older buildings on campus and the basement is not easily accessible: it’s multi-level (though there is an elevator), to get to certain classrooms and areas you have to go through other classrooms, and the studio workspaces (art school) and some classrooms are in the lofts that don’t have elevators. But one of my biggest peeves is the bathroom. There is one regular stall and a handicapped stall, for some reason the toilet is higher up than toilets usually are. It is difficult for me to sit on that toilet, I have to put my hands on the toilet seat and hoist my body up, and when I finally get up there my feet dangle at least 5in off the ground. I can’t even image trying to use that toilet while wheelchair bound.

    6 years ago
  36. I live in Sweden and I have some experience with this myself, as my grandfather is in a wheelchair for most of the time (He can walk short distances such as 20m or a short walk if we help him). I feel so blessed living in Sweden when it comes to this, everything has a solution for the handicapped and if there’s something wrong, everyone’s usually super nice and willing to help you. We usually go to the (outdoor and indoors) theatres when he’s here (he lives over 2 hours away from us by car) and we get good spots and when we go to the movie theatre we have to call before, but everyone’s super nice and helpful as usual. A specific experience I remember is when we were going to take the train from Stockholm to Småland (where he lives, it’s roughly 3 hours by train?) they had an electric ramp for him to get onto and of the train. The train was hours late because of a thunderstorm but that’s not the point, the point is that when we could actually /board/ the train, we helped him onto it manually, since he can walk with help. But they didn’t know that and actually waited for us to come so they could help him on. They waited with the departure for him. I don’t know if it’s that much of a big deal, but yeah I felt really good then. He did get help to get off the train when we arrived with help of the electric ramp!

    I’m rambling right now, but yeah, these were my experiences in Sweden ~~

    6 years ago
    • Also! I think we covered in my Social studies, that if a school denies a student because they don’t have ramps etc. for a disabled student, it’s considered discrimination.

      6 years ago
  37. Nice and interesting TL;DR.

    I think here in México accessibility has been improving lately but just in some areas, specially malls, universities and chain stores. But there is a LOT missing I can think of a lot of places where is almost imposible to walk or cross the street with your legs fully working I cant imagine if you are on a weelchair! On public transportation I cant say much cause I dont use it but Im sure it also need much more improvement.

    Btw I have never herd of Mexican stories about duendes that will kidnap you.

    6 years ago
    • I always thought duendes are more like spirits or ghosts. I recall when I was really little I would wake up in the middle of the night and wander around the house, because of this my father nicknamed me El Duende. I think it was the Cucuy (bogeyman)that would steel naughty little children.

      6 years ago
  38. It’s funny, in Europe, well in Ireland, using the term ‘handicapped’ to describe something that’s not related to golf is generally deemed quite offensive. We use the term ‘disabled parking/person/toilet…’.

    6 years ago
  39. About the ramp thing, supposedly there’s an international standard about the ratio of height vs length of the ramp for safety reasons. The common standard practice is 1:12, which means for each feet of height you elevate, you need to have at least 12 feet long ramp. I just studied this briefly for one of my classes, so I’m really sure either. It might have been different in SK.

    6 years ago
  40. Awesome TL;DR guise! :D

    Btw, Simon’s beard and mustache daebak! (Y) He can definitely win some sort of brovember award or something xD

    6 years ago