The Post reporter tried to interview disabled students for Cover Story, but they were hard to find. First, the reporter rang Admissions, but they told her that even though they knew who the disabled were, they would not give her information about them. Then she tried again but was told that the students on the disabled list were already graduated. Then she went from office to office but couldn't find. When she received the student list, Admissions didn't distinguish students with disabilities. This attitude reflects the School Authority (SA)'s indifference toward the disabled.
Dongguk University (DU) celebrates its centennial anniversary this year with the intention of improving its image. It's time that they focus on disabled students' welfare, as well.
Part 1. Present Condition at DU
There were about twelve thousands students enrolled at DU in 2005, but only three disabled students study in the school, at the Dept. of English literature, Law and Sociology. According to the admission rules, the disabled who have 1 to 3 level and get within 3 level in Academic Aptitude Test could be enrolled, except the visually-impaired, hearing-impaired and speech-impaired. And when students enter DU, they must be able to come to class by themselves.
The DU campus is not designed to handle the handicapped, even though there is a committee responsible for these students, it won't have its first meeting until next semester.
Part 2. Problems and Situation in DU
DU got a 'Requesting Improvement' in 2005 when disabled students' welfare was evaluated by the Ministry of Education & Human Resources Development. Thirteen specialists who evaluated student Selection, Environment and Facilities visited and inspected DU and reported their findings to the Ministry of Education & Human Resources Development.
"It's hard to evaluate DU's level at this point because the evaluation itself was ambiguous. Even though DU got 20 more points in 2005 than in 2003, nothing has improved," said Cho Sung-hwan, a staff of Facility Management.
"DU needs more braille blocks, protection equipment, handrails, slope ways and parking zones for the physically challenged. But this costs much money. And if construction starts during the semester, it makes too much noise. But we are making small improvements," added Mr. Cho.
Nevertheless, disabled students point out that the SA doesn't have basic information about them. Kang Sung-jin, a handicapped student in the Dept. of Sociology said, "The essential problem is that they take an interest in us only for a short time. They don't consider disabled students as having problems separate from other students.?
No one really listens to their voice and opinion. "Once I asked something of the SA, and a school official came and helped me. Except for that time, my problems have been ignored by the SA," said Kim Joo-hyun, the only disabled student who is in the Dept. of Law. He needs a different balustrade in the Law School so he can get around better, but nothing has been done.
One problem for the disabled is that it takes more time for them to move from classroom to classroom. The universities that got a grade of 'Good' have volunteers who help the disables students get to class and help them in the classroom, as well.
Part 3. What Do Other Universities Do for the Disabled?
Some universities got a good grade from the Ministry of Education & Human Resources Development for their facilities and education system for the disabled. These universities help them through scholarships, volunteerism and comfortable facilities. They have many flexible systems, even though there are only a few students who need help.
Seoul National University
Daily Mentoring System
"The disabled are cherished students despite their handicaps," said Hwang Mi-ju of the Seoul National University (SNU) Center for Students with Disabilities. SNU was recently graded 'Excellent' compared with 'Requesting Improvemen'in 2003. They have made many changes to improve the life of the disabled.
SNU has about 30 disabled students. Five of them have serious physical problems, so student volunteers have to help them with their school work. The volunteers aim to make the university life comfortable for the disabled.
SNU's Daily Mentoring is an especially caring system for these students. They can talk daily with teachers about their troubles both academic and personal. Volunteering is an obligation for the freshman while others can choose to participate as well. Sometimes volunteers change the classroom for the disabled. "We are change lecture rooms for them if necessary. Especially during examinations, we arranged special interviews with professors," Hwang said.
Systems for Disabled Minority
There are fourteen handicapped students attending SungKyunKwan University (SKKU). The Minority Care System controls these students on the Internet. It allows them to access the college register system so that they can communicate directly to the school about their needs.
Also, Enhangnamu scholarship is for the disabled. Students graded as 1 or 2 disabled would have a full scholarship and those graded as 3 to 5 would have a half scholarship. And SKKU has a braille reader and screen magnifying glass in the library, which helps these students with reading books and using library facilities. Moreover, it is essential to assist these students on campus. Students that the School chooses to help the disabled receive partial scholarships and academic credit.
"Why are we so enthusiastic for the handicapped? Because they are students who have a right to study. If they have disabilities, the University backs them up. They should enjoy their school life like other students," said Park Jeong-ho from Academic Support.
Easily Access to School
Sogang University (SGU) has fifty disabled students including five hearing-impaired and two who need a guardian. Every building in the campus has a slopeway for wheel chairs and elevators. There is one wheel chair lift. Moreover, disabled students don't take classes in buildings without elevators.
"Student helpers receive scholarships in proportion to the time they spend with the disabled, and their efforts are rewarded with a letter of recommendation," said Choi Yong-su, a staff of One Stop Service Center. "The helper assists the disabled who take notes using a laptop computer or notebook. Hearing-impaired students can use FM transmitter-receiver amplifying a lecturer's voice." Moreover, the disabled can choose classes without considering credits. Thus they can regulate their time and study more easily.
Korea Nazarene University
Many Students, Many Systems
"We have to protect the disabled's right to a higher education," said Hong Sung-cheon, Braille-Voice-Electronic-Edu-Info Center in Korea Nazarene University (KNU).
KNU enrolled 242 disabled students this year, over 90% of them have serious disabilities. Last semester, 233 students applied to help the 218 disabled study and adapt to campus life. Also, the handicapped students could help other disabled students through this system.
Through studying together, the volunteers and the disabled could learn how to help and live together. "We pursue understanding rather than ignorance. A physical disability should not disqualify one from a university education," Hong said. KNU offers the disabled priority at registration time, physical care system and a barrier-free campus.
Part 4. What Does DU Offer the Disabled?
DU has three disabled students. They must go up and down non-balustrade stairs, and use buildings without elevators. The SA acts as if the handicapped don't need any help with their life. They don't expect the University to build them special buildings, but they would like a more flexible and convenient academic system.
The Post suggests that DU should increase the number of disabled students and give scholarships to volunteers who help them. The school needs a more flexible admission policy. Respecting minorities indicates an advanced education system. To do these things, DU should begin by improving facilities and making the campus more accessible to the disabled by adding balustrades and braille blocks.
Other students have to change their perception of the disabled, too. "When SA tries to set up new facilities for the disabled, the noise annoys other students. Then they immediately complain even though they know the reason for the inconvenience. We will construct the facilities during the vacation so as not to interrupt students when studying," said Cho Sung-hwan. Even though many students say they want improved facilities for the disabled, when faced with the inconvenience, they change mind and complain about it.
Most of the students in DU are physically healthy; so they don't think DU needs special facilities for the disabled. But the University does have disabled students. Students have to consider the disabled's problems uncomfortable. The SA needs a specific plan to help the disabled and students must consider their problems. If students and the SA are in harmony and listen carefully to the voice of the disabled, DU's 100th anniversary will be celebrated by all Donggukians.
Yun Seul-ki, Lee Seon-a firstname.lastname@example.org
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