Breaking down barriers

On the first floor of Shalom Hall, the Student Organization for the Differently Abled (SODA) asks students to share their ideas on how to live barrier-free.(Photos: Charles Ian Chun)

On the first floor of Shalom Hall, the Student Organization for the Differently Abled (SODA) asks students to share their ideas on how to live barrier-free.
(Photos: Charles Ian Chun)

This past April 20th was Korea’s 34th National Day for People with Disabilities, and Kangnam University’s students worked hard to promote awareness.

2nd-year special education major Kim Cho-rok embosses name labels in Braille for fellow students.

2nd-year special education major Kim Cho-rok embosses name labels in Braille for fellow students.

On April 10 shouts of “Participate in our campaign!” could be heard across the first floor of Shalom Hall from members of the Student Organization for the Differently Abled (SODA). Students may remember last year’s Harmony campaign in which students were asked to write on brightly colored sticky notes and share their thoughts on what it means to be disabled. This year SODA asked students to think “Barrier Free”, asking about what could be done to reduce barriers between those who are disabled and those who are not.

In an uncoordinated event the following Thursday, Kangnam University’s special education majors spent their afternoon in front of Shalom Hall embossing name labels in Braille (the writing system used by the blind and visually impaired) for fellow students. The desire to build a stronger community with the disabled is clearly gaining momentum.

Min-ju Kim, president of Kangnam University's Student Society for the Disabled, calls on students to take part in the SODA campaign.

Min-ju Kim, president of Kangnam University’s Student Society for the Disabled, calls on students to take part in the SODA campaign.

“Society should change someday, but we also think that we should be the ones to begin the change.” explains Min-ju Kim, a 4th-year student and president of Kangnam University’s Student Society for the Disabled.

Min-ju says it’s easier than we think. When speaking with someone who is hearing impaired, for example, those without disabilities could simply make an effort to speak loudly and clearly. She adds, however, that the disabled also need to make an effort to interact with the general public and not be shy about asking someone to speak a little louder or openly revealing their disability in the first place. She admits it’s not a fast process. “We still need more time,” she says.

Still, the effort has generated significant interest. SODA finished the day with over 400 responses compared to 260 last year. Even their membership has grown from 35 to 45 over the past year, composed of disabled and able-bodied members in equal numbers.

Later this month SODA will be taking their campaign off campus and partnering with a similar student organization from another university.

Students who wish to keep up with the activities of SODA and the Student Society for the Disabled can simply find their Facebook group by searching “강장회”.

Charles Ian Chun

Editor and web designer, The Kangnam Hakbo (English). Instructor, Department of Liberal Arts.

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