Universal Design Policy in Seoul

The 2017 Universal Design International Seminar has obtained written consent from the speaker to publish the summarized and edited content

SPEAKER: Seo-Young Byun (Director of Design Policy Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government)

Seoul's design policy has been in place since 2007. The city’s design policy has been trying to make a cleaner and more sophisticated city, through measures such as improving signage and reorganizing facilities. From 2008 to 2010, the Seoul Design Olympics were held, and in 2010, Seoul was selected as the World Design Capital. For the past 10 years, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has implemented policies focusing on facilities for the disabled through its building certification system for the convenient city life of a wide variety of citizens. With the design policy based on these legal standards, the comfort of citizens has been improved, but it centered on the disabled, and there were cases where public in general was not taken into consideration. This was part of the background for Seoul introducing universal design.

The composition of Seoul citizens is also diversifying. As of 2016, the elderly population in Seoul was about 1.28 million, 12.5% ​​of the total population, and by 2027, one in five people is expected to belong to that category. As the number of foreign visitors and the multicultural population continues to increase, this is also becoming an important consideration in Seoul's policies. The diversity of citizens requires more consideration, and Seoul introduced universal design to respect the diversity of all citizens.


Seoul's universal design policy not only aims to provide a safe and convenient environment for everyone, but has a philosophy of awareness and consideration for all people. In order to actively introduce this into municipal government, the universal integration guideline was created, for the comprehensive and systematic application and management of universal design along with spreading awareness of the project.

Seoul Universal Design Guidelines

The principles of the Seoul Universal Design Integration Guidelines set convenience, safety, comfort, and choice as four universal design principles to create an urban environment where all citizens can live safely and comfortably. This concept was created by integrating and linking a total of 15 guidelines applied in various areas of Seoul, including existing laws, and through several consultations with each department in Seoul, it was possible to guarantee the execution power.

The scope of application of the integrated guideline is streets, parks/plazas, and public buildings, which are the basic elements of the urban environment. Classified by space, user-centered movement was considered from the beginning to the end of facility use.


Integration guideline application examples

In the sidewalk area, guidelines for the step difference were presented based on a flat road that anyone can walk on, and wayfinding was made easier. In public restrooms, the availability of facilities for accompanying infants and the disabled is indicated with easily-recognised pictograms, and in areas such as Samcheong-dong, guidelines were presented in advance to give the location of ramps and stairs so that a detour line could be selected in consideration of the topographical characteristics of Seoul.

In driveway areas, it is often difficult to secure the safety of pedestrians from residential street houses and alleyways, so a guideline has been prepared in consideration of the safety of back roads. Pedestrian-priority roads improved pedestrian safety by replacing the floor with a material similar to that of the sidewalk to raise awareness.


Guidelines and toilet pictograms for easy-to-walk flat paths

Sidewalk Blocks on Pedestrian Priority Roads

In the park, not only is it convenient and accessible, but it can be enjoyed by anyone. Hearing-based play facilities allow blind and non-disabled children to play together, and an easy access road for children using wheelchairs has been installed. In addition, in the corridors of public buildings, guidelines were provided to install handrails and to distinguish the entrance location by color so that it can be found easily.

Usually, escalators are installed and operated on the basis of ascending. However, there are situations in which going down the stairs is more dangerous than going up, and there is an expert opinion that mainly the elderly or users with knee discomfort may put more strain on their knees when going down the stairs. In this case, from the user's point of view, it can be said that the escalator is a more universal way to operate variably between up and down.


Seoul's universal design guidelines are to think about things that have been taken for granted so far from the perspective of various people and to think about how to do it more conveniently.

Project in process

- Establishment of universal design evaluation system

The Seoul Metropolitan Government is building a basis for implementing universal design integration guidelines, and is promoting its application and spreading awareness. We are in the process of establishing a universal design evaluation system, which aims to establish suitability and user inconvenience by looking at the design, construction, and use stages and showing the guidelines. In addition, in order to promote the application of guidelines, it is conducting a consulting business that presents actual application cases and a universal design application service.

- Universal design consulting for welfare facilities

The Seoul Metropolitan Government selects about 10 welfare facilities every year and provides customized improvement plans through user surveys and expert advice, and promotes them. These facilities were improved based on the user's points of view, such as creating a warm and comfortable space by creating a new entrance hall at the Senior Citizen's Hall, or using large text on information boards. Various targets are selected through the project to implement and promote leading cases.


-Humanism and creative education through universal design experience

In order to spread awareness of universal design, we are conducting universal design humanism and creativity education for elementary school students so that they can learn the philosophy of consideration for others from an early age. From 2015 to last year, we directly visited elementary schools to provide education. Satisfaction with the education is high, and from this year, education is being carried out by including it in the 5th grade regular course.


Although awareness of Seoul's universal design policy guideline evaluation system is growing, we will continue to promote the project so that it can be applied to the entire region in the future through the development of the universal design application project for public institutions. Next year, the Universal Design Center will be opened, to establish a systematic implementation basis for the application of universal design, which will gradually expand throughout the city's policies. As such, Seoul, a city of 10 million citizens, will continue to establish a universal design policy for a city where the citizens of Seoul are happy and safe with universal design that respects and considers all citizens.

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