Challenges and Tasks of City of SEOUL

The 2018 Universal Design International Seminar has obtained written consent from the speaker to publish the summarized and edited content

SPEAKER: Sun-su Kim (Seoul Metropolitan Government, Design Policy Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government)

There are numerous definitions of universal design by experts and scholars. Among the definitions, I think The University of Buffalo defines universal design best: "A design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation.” Universal design is not a result, but rather a process of making. In this context, through various projects, the city of Seoul is implementing universal design that involves the public, solves everyday problems, and ensures that no one is marginalized.
Each and All, between individuality and versatility, how can a design for a particular person become a design for all?

Looking at the human life cycle, we go from childhood in a stroller to adolescence, and sooner or later, to an old person with a cane or a wheelchair. At any time in our life cycle, we are exposed to risks and have the potential to become handicapped by unexpected injuries. Looking at it from this point of view, I think that universal design is design that everyone needs, not only special classes or situations. The cases I want to talk about today are cases that are customized to specific objects and situations, but can be applied comprehensively to more objects and situations.

Special clothing requiring public attention
Since 2014, Seoul has been carrying out a design governance project in which various entities carry out the design process together with proposals from citizens. This case is a proposal by the mother of a child with a brain lesion disorder for a design governance project. This child grew to be an adolescent, but still needed her support, and her mother had a physical condition that made it difficult to dress the child on her own. Even though she tried to find ways to fix this problem, the process was not easy. We developed essential items for children that are not normally available, through consultation with associations of parents of children with severe disabilities, experts, and clothing manufacturers. It was distributed to many parents raising such children. The finished product was useful for the elderly as well as people who had temporarily injured their legs and had casts, and eventually individual cases and subjects became universally applied to everyone.

Design governance project; Examples of special clothing for people with severe disabilities

Design for going out with infants and toddlers with respect for each other in daily life
Design to help with outings with young children and infants began based on the difficulties a mother had moving about with both a stroller and luggage. To solve this problem, various stakeholders gathered and worked together during the design process, and as a result, the Hero Zone was devised. The Hero Zone, currently installed in City Hall Subway Station on Line 2, is an area that conveys the message that someone needs help. This is a plan to solve the difficulties not only of parents with infants who have to carry a stroller, but also travelers with large bags and elderly people with heavy luggage. In addition, in the case of parents pushing strollers, they need larger space when using the toilet, so a pictogram of a stroller was added to existing toilets, so that both groups could use it. It is designed to be used comfortably by anyone who lifts heavy luggage or has limited mobility. The name of the existing toilet for the disabled was changed to 'toilet for the transportation vulnerable'. It is designed to be used comfortably by anyone carrying heavy luggage or who has limited mobility.

City Hall Station Hero Zone and the toilet for the transportation vulnerable 

Designs such as bracket lighting to solve daily inconveniences
Hangang Park is a place where there are many cyclists and pedestrians. Especially at night, accidents such as collisions between cyclists and pedestrians are frequent. In order to solve this problem, when a bicycle approaches, the installed brackets light up and signal sounds are turned on so that pedestrians are aware of the bicycle. Pedestrians can safely cross the road thanks to  these signals. Conversely, when a pedestrian approaches, the light of the comma brightens so that the bicycle can decelerate in advance. An apartment building company expressed its intention to apply this idea for traffic safety within its complex, and other local governments will apply it to the road in front of schools.

Bracket lighting design

A street where the elderly are not marginalized
Generally, when the 65-year-old population exceeds 21%, it is classified as a super-aged society. Korea is rapidly entering a super-aging society. Is our urban environment designed to be physically safe and comfortable to use?
With this in mind,’Lucky Street’ is a project that attempts to alleviate inconveniences on the route toTapgol Park, a place where many elderly people gather, by conducting interviews and observing their behavior. Through various investigations, a range of problems were found, such as the inconvenience of not having a handle when using a public toilet, the problem of having nowhere to store a cane, and the problem of taking medicines in an outdoor space. Accordingly, we not only improved the physical environment so that the elderly could walk and perform activities more comfortably, but also provided various facilities that the elderly could enjoy, and sought the cooperation of local merchants in solving problems such as providing bottled water to the elderly. For the elderly, these meticulous considerations and devices were a project that gave them physical or cognitive comfort and satisfaction.

Rakhee street project

A village for physical and cognitive health
We would like to introduce an example of a village project for cognitive health. Older people are physically, psychologically and socially weaker as they get older, and often spend a lot of time indoors. This eventually leads to isolation, often leading to death by loneliness. The same goes for people with disabilities. The city of Seoul thought about how to promote their outside activities.
We investigated the reasons for the reluctance of the elderly and the disabled to go out, and as a solution to this, we created a trail to promote a healthy lifestyle, provide a safe intersection, find a way to develop memory, and create a play space and an external environment that stimulates the five senses. In addition, the signage system was improved so that the entrance of apartments is clearly distinguished for each apartment where a large number of elderly and disabled people reside. It was a way to get rid of the fear of going out.

A village for physical and cognitive health

Stress-reducing subway design
A survey revealed that Seoulites often feel stress at subway stations.
An important feature of universal design is a stress-reducing psychological environment. In the Seoul subway, the transfer route is sometimes not clear, so it is difficult to easily recognize and find the transfer area in the chaos of rush hour. Therefore, transfer direction signs were increased to a large size to reduce the stress caused by confusion.

Before and after of transfer exit sign design


Directional signs and guidance lines on the subway floor

And as a result of observation of subway users, it was noted that they were wandering in search of signs when moving along the route. The direction of the entrance was marked with floor signs and the distance was marked with the time in order to deliver information on 'how many minutes it takes by normal walking'. In addition, the problem of passengers getting tangled up and congested when getting on and off the subway is the problem of increasing the satisfaction of citizens by reducing this stress through a simple guide line. By providing a place to take a break in case of an emergency, the response and satisfaction of the citizens was increased.

Rest area in subway station

Seoul is taking various measures to spread universal design to the private sector as well as the public domain. In February 2016, the Ministry of Culture Sports and Tourism enacted a law, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government enacted an ordinance accordingly. The statutory basic plan is in progress, and the opening of the Universal Design Center is being planned.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government's task is not simply a pilot project unit, but to develop and spread it as a sustainable policy. Therefore, various policies are being developed to build a variety of support systems and connect services closely related to life so that citizens can experience it, and we can raise citizens' awareness of universal design.
The universal design pursued by the Seoul Metropolitan Government is making relevant policies with the goal of designing for all citizens of Seoul in a way that is convenient, safe, and satisfying without discrimination or alienation. In the future, the city of Seoul will continue to pursue the process of finding these values.

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