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  • Yoon Su-hyeon

[FEATURE] Barrier FREE

No.166 / Oct 16, 2023

For the 2023 Ajou Cherry Blossom Festival and Daedongje, the student council We:A provided a special “barrier-free zone.” Although this was not the first time that students had seen this zone set up, not many people knew what it meant. This is not at all surprising since most students were not familiar with the term “barrier-free zone.” Barrier-free refers to a campaign or policy to design an environment in which people with disabilities are not prevented from engaging in physical and social activities. With the intention of holding safe and welcoming school festivals, Ajou University adopted this barrier-free policy and started to set up barrier-free zones after last year’s Woncheon Daedonjae in September 2022.

A barrier-free zone was arranged on the side of the backstage. However, there are some unresolved issues and difficulties associated with this new implementation. A student who uses a wheelchair indicated that since the barrier-free zone was right beside the stage where the audience’s view was blocked by iron structures, people who had to enjoy the show had no chance to fully engage with the performance. Another student seated in the zone said that they felt left behind when the performers were interacting with all the other people in front of the stage. Moreover, the entrance to the barrier-free zone had multiple bumps and raised spots, which made access for people in wheelchairs difficult. Wheelchair riders had to be lifted by the safety staff every time they wanted to enter and exit the zone. Although the barrier-free zone is not perfectly established on the campus yet, progress is continuously taking place. Some improvements could be seen in the 2023 Woncheon Daedongjae compared to the same festival in the previous year. According to student president Lee Hyo-sung (4th grade, the Department of Environmental and Safety Engineering), some refinements were made. One of those included easy access right on the spot with no advance enrollment required. More to that, the student council, We:A refurbished the space with a hard fence for safety. We:A also mentioned that they are in the process of renewing the campus map into a brand-new version that includes all the barrier-free zones on the campus. The map will be constantly updated over time and its installation on the Ajou University application which is still in discussion will be announced to students soon. In addition, more places inside the university buildings are being designated as barrier-free zones such as the lounge in room 116-1, Student Union 2 to provide more comforting areas for students with disabilities.

The Ajou Globe (The AG) interviewed Lee Da-hye (3rd grade, the Department of Public Administration), who uses a wheelchair, to learn more about the difficulties on campus of students with disabilities.


Q. Do you have any difficulties moving around campus?

A. Although I appreciate the efforts and incremental changes made on campus to create a better environment for students with disabilities, I still face challenges when moving around. Stairs are impassible barriers for someone in a wheelchair; however, few people know that stiff slopes limit the movement radius when in a wheelchair. Because of the steep ramp connecting the way to Seongho Hall and Yulgok Hall, which could be very dangerous for wheelchairs, I always take a long detour through the Student Union when I come and go. That is why I could not take the classes consecutively in each of these buildings.


Q. What are some school facilities that you wish to improve?

A. Sometimes I get frustrated when lecture rooms do not provide desks that wheelchair users can use or when there is not enough space in the room to get to my seat. Courses in the auditorium are even worse. I always sit at the very back, whether I want to or not, because I cannot get any further down because of the stairs. Hopefully, the school will recognize the hardships of students with disabilities and take appropriate measures to resolve these everyday problems.


Ajou University and student council We:A’s efforts to create a more inclusive place for everyone are praiseworthy, but there is a long way to go to make the campus festival and the campus itself more disability-friendly. We hope that there will be further improvements to campus facilities in the future.

 

By Yoon Su-hyeon, AG Reporter

suhyeonryoon@ajou.ac.kr

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