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Posts Tagged ‘accessible’

2020-7-28-manila_travel

Photo: Hong Seo-yoon 
Hong Seo-yoon is a South Korean advocate for accessible tourism. In her book Europe: There’s No Reason Not to Go, she even has a section on paragliding.

International tourism may be in a Covid-19 slump, but there are lots of people aching to get back to it. At Public Radio International (PRI), Jason Strother reports on a South Korean world traveler who uses a wheelchair and has shown through her life and writing that sometimes it takes only small changes to enable everyone to travel.

“Hong Seo-yoon maneuvers through shifting clusters of picture-snapping tourists outside of Deoksugung, a palace in downtown Seoul. Before passing through the former royal residence’s wooden gate, she adjusts her motorized wheelchair’s speed ahead of a gradual incline in the stone walkway that leads into a tree-lined courtyard.

“The 32-year-old explains that even small modifications, such as replacing a step with a ramp, give people like her access to places that otherwise would have been difficult if not impossible to enter independently.

“Hong says that many people are often unaware that when it comes to tourism, sightseeing or even extreme sports, many people with disabilities, whether they are blind, deaf or use a wheelchair, ‘all want the same things.’

‘They want to travel, they want to visit places, I don’t think there’s a difference,’ Hong said. ‘Having a disability is not something special or weird.’

“Hong is the founder of Tourism for All Korea, a nonprofit that advocates for greater inclusion in the country’s tourism industry for people with disabilities and makes policy recommendations for improvements in this sector. She’s also the author of Europe, There’s No Reason Not to Go — the first travelogue written by a wheelchair user from her country.

“Her work has informed Seoul’s efforts to make its streets, transit and tourism locations more inclusive for citizens and visitors with disabilities. … A generation ago, a person with a physical or intellectual difference might have been ‘a  shame to their family,’ she said, theorizing this attitude was a consequence of South Korea’s postwar trauma that placed economic growth and competition paramount to other concerns.

“The Korean War in the early 1950s left the South in ruin and poverty. In 2007, South Korea passed the Disability Anti-Discrimination Act, but Hong believes some people still hold onto old biases. …

“Her own experience facing physical and social obstacles underlie her advocacy. When Hong was 10 years old, she suffered a spinal cord injury during a swimming pool accident that paralyzed her from the waist down. At that time, ‘Korea wasn’t accessible at all’ for wheelchair users, she said.

“She recalls her brother pushing her alongside cars in the street since there were no sidewalk curb cuts in her provincial hometown. Hong says she also faced discrimination when her parents were told to send her to a distant institution for people with disabilities because there wasn’t an elevator in the local, four-story grade school.

“Her family instead moved to the Philippines, where a nurturing teacher told Hong that ‘being disabled was not abnormal,’ she said.

“When she returned to South Korea to attend the university, Hong had learned to stand up for herself. She got a taste for activism when her school’s administration refused to relocate a class to the ground floor. Hong fought back and won. …

“Her book idea was rejected by two publishers that told her ‘no one would read about disability stories,’ she said. ‘It really hurt me.’

“After promising to buy any unsold copies, Hong convinced the company Saenggak Bi Haeng in 2016 to take a chance with her book. But, she did not have to live up to her end of the deal — all 3,000 copies sold out, and now, the title is in a second-print run. …

“She believes travel and tourism are ways people with disabilities and the nondisabled can connect with each other and help nondisabled people overcome their biases.

“ ‘Suddenly, they meet a disabled person in their life and they change,’ she said. ‘They change their mind about what [are] disabled people and how to live with disabled people.’ ”

More here.

 

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