Posted by: Cacille | March 31, 2012

Accessibility for Disabled

I know my best friend will love that I’m even posting about this. She and I used to fix wheelchairs in a past job, something she has taken into another better career. Well, part of fixing wheelchairs is determining accessibility for testing and determining best wheelchair setups for people using them, and after a while that gets into your brain. So, this post is about wheelchair and disability accessibility in my little town in Korea.

It’s not bad at all. Seriously. I know, I could have said “What accessibility?” but the truth is, it’s actually not bad. There are curb cuts on all intersections, and even the curbs aren’t too high anyway so curb-hopping is easily done. There are flat entrances without steps to almost every single ground-floor shop. Nice! However 2nd floor shops (which there are many here), are not accessible at all. Though the nice thing is that most of those 2nd floor places are restaurants and places called PC-bangs (description: Arcades, however they possess more computers on which to play multi-party or MMORPG type games.) So if you are disabled, you’re really only missing out on some internet cafes, PC-bangs, and a few restaurants. There ARE high-rises (5 to 20 stories or so) in this town, however since I have not been in one yet to determine accessibility, I can only assume that they all have at least one elevator!

My whole apartment could be easily wheelchair accessible with just two very minor modifications, too! There is only one step that could easily be leveled with a platform, and a small ramp placed outside the door.There are few shower tubs in Korea, as you basically just get the whole bathroom wet, so pretty much every bathroom is in itself a roll in shower. The toilet is directly next to the wall, so with one grab-bar installed, and the convenience of the washing machine right next to it, getting to the toilet is no issue at all. The faucet for the shower is ON the sink and has a large handle, making it easy to turn on and off. The shower head is easy to grab and hold, and is easily placed different places because it’s a hand held type with a long flexible pipe. The door is wide and the bathroom large enough to close the door while in a wheelchair. There is only one minor issue, the threshold is a bit high for the entrance to the bathroom, given that the flooring is a bit uneven, it is about 2″ tall at one point. Easily fixed with a wedge-type ramp. I have counter top space here which is open underneath, making it easy to maneuver in the kitchen. The faucet has a large handle and a flexible spray neck, with a 2-setting button right on the head of the faucet. The stove is set low, given that there is only cooktops here, which sits on a low cabinet.

I would also be able to get to my job with few problems, and into the first floor at least. Sadly there is no elevator, but in Korea – people help you here. A lot. I have no doubts that kids or teachers would carry someone disabled up the steps and down as need be. Once I get to my office, it’s easy going from then on. Everything is flat and level, and even the gym has a permanent ramp from the parking lot which is pretty easily accessible to the school! However the women’s bathroom is not accessible at all and would be hard to make accessible. Since it’s a boy’s school, there is only one small women’s bathroom.

I’m rather surprised that this town is so accessible.  The city planners have done quite a good job in my opinion. Some things aren’t so great- for example the streets are narrow in places and there is no sidewalk on side roads. There’s only room for two cars  on each street – and half of the street is used for parking, so no sidewalk can be added and there is really only room for one car. Not one car and one person walking…just one car. So you have to scoot out of the way of oncoming traffic sometimes, harder for those in wheelchairs. The sidewalks are all brick and sometimes the bricks are missing, causing ruts in places.  The shops are generally crammed tight with items, so while someone in  a chair can get in the door, it’s hard to get past that in some of the smaller dollar store and art store type places. That’s…about it. Seriously. I have few complaints. And yes, I’ve seen a few scooters running about – mostly old ladies and men in them. I haven’t seen a manual or power wheelchair yet though.

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