Yoon Seohyang, a blind middle school English teacher, and Kim Yeji, a well-known blind pianist are not the only hidden gems at SMU. Despite big obstacles, more and more physically-challenged students from SMU are vigorously brightening Korean society. SMU’s gentle power to move the world is succeeding. In this sense, SMT investigated how they are changing society and where their potential comes from. Please note that SMT has used the term physically- challenged or differently abled to refer to the “Disabled Student Services Center” and its related services to be more politically correct and avoid offending others.
Where Gentle Power Begins
When SMT asked Kim Yeji, a blind pianist, what SMU meant to her, she replied with, “SMU was the scaffold that allowed me to achieve my dream. SMU helped me to have courage and be active as I strived for my goals.” Then, SMT looked into support systems for persons with disabilities in SMU, and her quote really came to light. SMU’s Physically-challenged Student Services Center has provided various kinds of services for physically-challenged students since its establishment in 2011. The services can be categorized into 3 types as follows.
Educational Supporting Services
- Library Services
SMU’s Main Library provides support services for differently abled undergraduate students. Students can borrow 20 books for up to 30 days, and there is an academic material delivery service that does direct delivery or shipping by post. It also provides various facilities such as elevators, toilets, assigned seats and digital equipment.
- Priority of Class Enrollment
SMU provides priority class allotment to physically-challenged students, and the students can receive help at each step of the application.
- Construction of Stenographic Recording Classrooms
On Second Foundation Campus, two stenographic recording classrooms were built for hearing-impaired students.
- Physically-challenged Students Helper System
Able-bodied students volunteer to assistance physically-challenged students’ writing, typing, movement, and participation at events. It is crucial for communication between students and the university.
-Medical Lectures for Women
Sookmyung Medical Volunteer (SMMV) club carries out lectures on female health care for physically-challenged students. SMMV details correct health habits and precautions for enhancing students’ physical and mental wellness.
Internal-External Exchange Services
- Physically-challenged Student Oriented Global Explore Program
Students get a chance to strengthen their educational ability via cultural exchanges in this Global Explore Program. As of yet, only two programs are being actively held, one with Australia and the other with Hong Kong starting in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
- Developmental Program for Artistic Sensitivity
This program enhances physical and mental health for both physically-challenged students and able students. Through this program, they can learn proper respiration, body stretching, self-expression, and basic rhythms of Korean dance.
Models SMU Needs to Follow
SMU offers many services, and currently 32 physically-challenged students are making use of the benefits. 32 may seem small, but considering that the total number of students at SMU is lower than at any other university in Seoul, the rate of physically-challenged students is relatively high. SMU has really a good infrastructure, and it was nominated as the university offering the best education and welfare for physically-challenged students in 2011 and 2012. Interviews with students revealed satisfaction with SMU’s school service. However, there is still room for improvement. For instance, when SMT visited the stenographic recording classrooms, the back of the rooms were filled with arts major works, which made the environment for physically- challenged students quite unpleasant. Also, Kang Yein, a differently abled student in the Department of Painting ’12 said it is too hard to access the Physically-challenged Student Service Center webpage from the SMU main website.
What SMU’s Physically-challenged Students Service and the entire campus need to do is gather information about other schools’ welfare systems and try to modify them to meet the needs of our school.
To begin with, Korea University has a student council exclusively for physically-challenged students. Park Giyung, Department of Food Bioscience and Technology ‘08 at Korea University, is president of the council. He said, “I experienced firsthand inequality against physically- challenged students, and I want to vanquish this inequality and help others.”1 Outside Korea, there are many foreign universities that have good welfare systems for physically-challenged students as well. Gallaudet University, in the U.S.A, is a university for hearing impaired students. Surely, comparing that school with SMU might be farfetched; however, SMU can still “adopt” some of its strengths. In the school, there are video phones everywhere. If a student doesn’t know sign language, there is a translator who is an expert in sign language, so every student can use video phones to talk to each other. The building is surrounded by glass windows, so students both in- and outside of the building can communicate with sign language.
We are Here, For You
In a past issue, SMT once published an article about one reporter’s experience of a day without legs. She said, “Experiencing a day without legs, I felt that Korean society was not quite ready to accept people with disabilities. It was not convenient at all, and the one thing I noticed riding in the wheelchair was that people stared at me oddly, which made me feel like I did something wrong when I didn’t.” Surely, SMU is offering the nation’s best infrastructures for physically-challenged students; however, there are more than subsidizing or building fancy buildings. It is easy to think there are only few physically-challenged students that others really do not have to take care. However, what will make SMU truly the world’s best place for physically-challenged students will be the Sookmyungians themselves. Kang Yein, the differently abled student mentioned earlier, said she wishes to have more opportunities to interact with students without a disability. The school body shouldn’t forget that the desires of the differently abled students can only be achieved when what you think, say and do are in harmony. Social minorities should not be minorities at SMU since they have the right to be happy just like other students.