Community Introductions: Teri

Today we are happy to introduce you to an adoptee living in Korea.
Teri was nice enough to sit down with us and tell us a little bit about her story and life in Korea:

My name is Teresa Thomas and I was adopted in 1976. This is my second time returning to Korea and I have been here since April 5, 2017. I returned with the intention of doing further research on my birth family, to live and work here on a permanent basis, and also increase awareness about Korean adoptees with disabilities with hopes of also involving native Koreans as well.

I was born with cerebral palsy, a disorder that impairs motor skills. For me, it has affected my walking and my speech. During my first visit to Korea in 1994, I don’t specifically remember if I had any struggles getting around Seoul. However, since coming back to Korea this past April, I have encountered so much difficulty getting to and from places.

I have fallen many times due to uneven pavement. However, I have also seen several “normal” people trip or fall due to uneven street surfaces. The only difference is that they have better balance than myself which prevents them from completely falling.

Another difficulty is riding the public buses. While walking to the bus stop or station I often get shoved, or pushed. This can be attributed to Korea’s 빨리 빨리 culture where everyone is seemingly in a rush to get where they need to go.

Additionally, most stores and restaurants do not have railings on their staircases. Many also do not have elevators. Some people with disabilities have difficulties climbing up stairs without a railing and some have difficulties climbing stairs regardless if there are railings or not.

In general, people with disabilities should be aware of these types of challenges and conditions before visiting any country. They should be prepared to face these challenges at any given moment.

It is helpful to know your limitations - know what you can and cannot do as there is not as widespread ease of access in Korea as there is in a country like the United States. From my experience, you can expect some delays getting around. I recommend taking your time and protecting yourself to make sure you can safely navigate Korea. I also have found that many times, Korean people are very willing to help.

Having discussed my experience with accessibility here in Korea, here are my general recommendations to improve it:

#1 Provide paratransit to supplement the public transportation routes of buses and subway routes.

#2 Create regulations for taxi drivers that would require them to take people with disabilities anywhere within the city, regardless of distance or location.

#3 Improve walking surfaces.

#4 Enforce current regulations or create regulations for buildings regarding the installation of railings and elevators.

#5 Create a better educational system for people with disabilities.

In closing, besides the physical challenges there have been emotional and mental challenges as well. Culturally, age can be a factor as well, affecting employment opportunities. Despite these challenges, everyone, including people with disabilities have great potential. Set your mind to your goals and you can do it!

*Views expressed here are of the adoptee and do not necessarily reflect G.O.A.'L.