November 6, 2014
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.