By Yun Suh-young
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has issued a set of guidelines for the designs of public facilities, intended to make sites across the capital universally accessible.
The "Universal Design Guideline for Welfare Facilities" was recently finalized by the city government in the hope that more architects and designers will incorporate the ideas when planning facilities. It is freely available on the Design Seoul website.
Universal design aims to make facilities accessible and easy for all people to use regardless of age, gender or whether they have disabilities.
The guidelines offer methods on how premises can best support childcare, care of the elderly and grant access to disabled people.
Five underlying principles are highlighted: eliminating depressing atmospheres, having premises that can be adapted for multiple purposes, creating a safer environment, creating a happy and healthy environment, and communicating clearly with local communities.
To create more comfort and convenience, the guidelines offer advices on the brightness of lights, finishing materials to be used, and at what height to place door knobs, toilets, stairs and beds. It also considers human traffic and includes examples of visitor-friendly entrances to buildings.
"Usually people are forced to adapt to facilities that are already built in a certain way even if they are old, infirm or with disabilities. Facilities are then later renovated for specific usage if there are inconveniences," said a city official involved with the universal design project.
"But the designs we are pursuing incorporate the needs of people in advance in order to build facilities that can be conveniently used from the beginning. A group of professionals from architects and professors to facility owners all participated in the creation of the guideline."
The guideline provides interior and exterior design suggestions.
For instance, it advises that showers, towel holders, and toilet paper holders are set at a height appropriate for children between the ages of 2 and 7. It also suggests that floors are even and flat throughout the facility so that children will not fall.
In facilities for the elderly, the guidelines suggest that automatic doors or sliding doors be installed in bathrooms so that the elderly can easily open them. It also encourages the usage of contrasting colors on doors so that the elderly can easily distinguish one entrance from another.
For disabled facilities, it suggests twin handles be built 65 and 85 centimeters off the ground on both sides of the walls in corridors so that people in wheelchairs or those that have difficulty walking can physically support themselves. Corners of walls are advised to be rounded or covered with protective pads.