There are approximately 10 disabled students attending YU, but this number is probably inaccurate because YU has no special classification for disabled students. Disabled students compete to enter YU under the same criteria as able bodied students. Therefore, the Office of Admission is not aware of their present situation. This flaw in the system itself is a problem. Based on the lack of initial consideration for disabled students the question must be asked; is YU disabled friendly?
In order to find an answer to this question YNO went to the Central Library which is the busiest place on campus and is used by the majority of students. At first glance the Central Library seems to be well equipped to facilitate disabled students. At the front doorway, there are two wheelchair ramps, and the inside of the Central Library is equipped with wide elevators and toilets. All of the buttons in the elevators are marked in braille. There are also blocks on the walkways to help guide blind people everywhere. Everything looks in order on the inside, but ironically disabled people, especially people in wheelchairs, cannot actually enter the Central Library. In order to enter the library everyone must pass through a card access gate. The width of the gate is 67cm, but the wheel base of the average wheelchair is at least 80cm. All access points from the first basement floor to the third floor have these gates.
In addition if a wheelchair bound student can enter, most computers are set up 1m high in the Central Library. This is too high for wheelchair bound students. 70cm is the proper and comfortable height for them. The Central Library also has little regard for blind and hearing-impaired people. Of course there are blocks and buttons in the elevators for the blind, but the most important function of a library is to make books accessible. However, there are no books or keyboards in braille. Blind students are not able to make any use of the library facilities.
According to the law, buildings should have fire-warning systems for the hearing-impaired among other things. However there are none in the Central Library.
YNO also investigated many other buildings including lecture rooms in YU. After we took a good look around campus we came to feel that the Central Library was not so bad in comparison. There is no apparent infrastructure for the blind, the hearing-impaired or the wheelchair bound in any of the other buildings. Every student, including disabled students, must go to the lecture rooms for class. However, most of the buildings have very few facilities for disabled students. All of the buildings we looked at had no means of going to upper floors other than stairways. There were no elevators and no wheelchair ramps. The entrances to most of the lecture rooms and buildings have high thresholds that make it difficult for disabled to enter. Nonskid sills on stairs are old or non-existent and the inside of the buildings have no blocks for the blind or toilets for them. All the toilets are for able bodied students and there is little regard for the disabled in most buildings. Simply put, all of the buildings in YU are difficult for disabled people to come in and out of and nearly impossible to navigate once they are inside.
Unfortunately it doesn't stop there. The exteriors of the buildings in YU also have many problems. We realized that there were insufficient or non-existant facilities for the disabled wherever we went. Seok-Yeon Yeo, Special Physical Education junior, said "Every Wednesday, a teacher in a wheelchair comes to YU to teach class, but every time he comes he faces the high threshold at the door as well as all the stairs and narrow doorways. Without our help he can not enter the lecture room. Whenever he comes to campus he has to call us. We carry him and his wheelchair to the lecture room. Also, he could enter and leave the Central Library before they set up the gate card system, but now he can never enter the Central Library." Seok-Yeon Yeo is a student in Chunma SPE which is a class offered by the Special Physical Education department and the wheelchair basketball team of YU. He added, "Originally, the Chunma SPE class was supposed to be given in the Memorial Gymnasium of Heekun Lee which is near the College of Education building, but the stairs at the Memorial Gymnasium of Heekun Lee are too high and there is no ramp, so the class moved to the Chunma Gymnasium because it has a ramp, but it is much further away."
According to a survey, YU has a total 164 buildings and there are a total of 114 toilets equipped for the disabled. Blocks to help guide the blind can be found in 60 places. There are 32 wheelchair ramps, and 32 elevators for the disabled. There are exactly zero fire warning systems on campus for the hearing-impaired.
YNO went to Daegu University (DU) which is very well equipped to accommodate disabled students. There are 192 disabled students at Daegu University, and there is a Service Center to assist them. All of the buildings have gentle wheelchair ramps and no impassable thresholds. There are also elevators and lifts for the disabled, as well as desks exclusively for students in wheelchairs. There are automatic doors, signposts marked in braille, and ample blocks on the ground for the blind. In many ways DU is the model institution for disabled accessibility.
There are also systems for the hearing-impaired, and blind students that are far superior to the ones that exist at YU. Five interpreters studying sign language are assigned to assist hearing-impaired students in cultural studies. The university also offers four "Braille Lites" which are computers for the blind. There are also 27 notebook computers designed for blind and hearing-impaired students. There is also a program that allows volunteers to offer notes on lectures. The Service Center for Disabled Students makes a compilation of the donated notes and changes them to braille and offers them to blind students. During tests many disabled student have difficulty writing so DU has a ghostwriting program. This allows a student volunteer to help disabled students who have physical difficulty with writing, the volunteer student is given a volunteer credit for their assistance.
DU also offers priority assignments to dormitories for disabled students. They even have a system to repair and lend wheelchairs. There is an open orientation for walking guidance for blind students to incoming freshmen. After taking in everything DU does to make life easier for disabled students we realized why so many disabled students want to enroll there.
When YNO pointed out the lack of facilities for disabled students in YU, the Office of Facilities Maintenance in YU said "YU was established in the 1980s. At that time regulations for accessible facilities for disabled students were not well defined, so all of the old buildings in YU are not properly equipped, but now according to the revised law for the disabled, newer buildings have better equipped facilities." However when we asked about the gate card system at the Central Library, the Office of Facilities Maintenance told us to speak to the manager of the Central Library. At the Central Library the chief librarian said "I have never heard anyone say that the width of the passage for the gate card system is too narrow for people in wheelchairs before you told me, because of this discussion, we will change this."
Although YU said that recently constructed buildings are properly equipped for disabled access, the university still installed the gate card system at the library. This shows that as an institution YU considers its disabled students only as an afterthought.
Byung-Woo Kim, a tutor in the Chunma SPE and a director in the Daegu City Dalgubul General Sports Center of the Disabled, said "According to the law for the disabled, wheelchair ramps must be 1/12. Which means that if the height is 1m, the horizontal distance should be 12 meters. This is a gentle slope, but how many places observe this law at YU? University should be a place for equal education opportunities. Disabled students are as much a part of the university community as anyone else. They enter YU based on the same criteria as able bodied students, but that doesn't mean they should be treated the same once they enter. If YU had given more thought about the difficulties facing disabled students, the facilities would be more adequate. YU has changed so much as a place of education, but YU still has a long way to go in terms of social responsibility. If YU gives a little more thought about their disabled students the facilities will improve."
YU has a large and beautiful campus. However, it seems as if it is only for able bodied students to enjoy. Some people say that there are hardly any disabled students at YU so there is no need to make the university more disabled friendly. However, the fact is that convenient facilities for the disabled are so poor that disabled students are discouraged to apply to YU.
Changing the culture of YU regarding the treatment of disabled students cannot be accomplished simply by improving the facilities. Going forward disabled students and able bodied students should have the opportunity to meet and understand each other. Hee-Jung Jeong, a student in the Chunma SPE program and a junior in the Special Physical Education department, said "A few days ago, because of Chunma SPE class I made a round of the campus in a wheelchair to adapt to the chair. I faced high door thresholds and stairs. It was very hard for me to get around, but the most difficult thing was the look of pity in the eyes of the students at YU. Even though I'm not actually disabled I was sad because of these looks, and I realized that I was guilty of the same thing whenever I saw a disabled person in a wheelchair."
We can get rid of this preconception about the disabled by making an effort to understand each other. Prestigious research by professors and a good system for exchange students is important. However, another real educational opportunity available at university should be taken to learn how to live with and understand those who are different from ourselves.