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Not someone else’s business

May 31,2018
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AHN HYE-RI
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

What impressed me the most in Edinburgh during my business trip to Scotland was the Edinburgh Marathon. It is an annual international event, the second largest in the United Kingdom after the London Marathon. World-class marathoners navigated the beautiful old town designated as a Unesco World Heritage alongside amateur runners competing for charity. It was a spectacle to behold, with thousands of runners dashing through the two-lane roads in the medieval town, passing Canongate Kirkyard where the grave of Adam Smith is located.

But what really impressed me was a visually-impaired runner who was holding hands with a guide runner. Also, there was a competitor in a wheelchair. The disabled and non-disabled runners were participating together, like a symbol of why the United Kingdom is an advanced country. In April, Simon Kindleysides, a 35-year-old man paralyzed from the waist down, finished the full course in 36 hours and 46 minutes in an exoskeleton suit.

The challenge was possible not only because of the runners’ incredible willpower but also the environment that the United Kingdom provides. With the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act and the Independent Living Fund, the United Kingdom is one of the few countries that has a universal understanding that disabled people are equal members of society with the same rights as able-bodied people. In major events like the marathon and in everyday life, efforts to remove obstacles that inhibit the movement of disabled people are made constantly.

I visited a few cities in the United Kingdom, and I could see that the consideration for the disabled also benefits all citizens. The ramps for wheelchair users also allow couples with small children in strollers and tourists with suitcases to easily enjoy the view from Edinburgh Castle. Many studies already show that the members of societies that embrace disabled people enjoy more benefits as a whole.

Disability is not someone else’s business. The World Health Organization’s 2012 report on disability showed that 15.6 percent of the population over the age of 15, more than one billion people, have disabilities due to birth defects, disasters, illness or aging. Disability is not a minority issue, and anyone could become disabled. But rather than caring for these people, schools for the disabled are shunned and some people want to keep the disabled away from the community. Some Koreans lack consideration for those who are different, and I envy the coexistence that the Edinburgh Marathon has shown.


JoongAng Ilbo, May 30, Page 31