The Korea Herald


[K-Wellness] Society must respect people with disabilities

Korea Disabled People’s Development Institute pursues tailor-made social services for people with disabilities

By Korea Herald

Published : Jan. 17, 2023 - 10:09

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Students perform at an event to raise disability awareness during the Disability Empathy Week last year. (KODDI) Students perform at an event to raise disability awareness during the Disability Empathy Week last year. (KODDI)

Korea Disabled People’s Development Institute, or KDDI, originated from the Korea Disabled People Welfare and Sports Foundation that was created in 1989, a year after the Summer Paralympics took place in Seoul. Upon amendments to the Act on Welfare of Persons with Disabilities, the foundation was renamed in 2008 to what it is today. Since then, it has undertaken projects and programs to meet the goal of “making society more inclusive for people with disabilities”.

KDDI has fundamental activities to meet its goal, including filling in loopholes in the disability welfare system, identifying and helping disabled persons who are not registered as such, developing an economic self-sufficiency model, especially for those living in poverty, and offering day care services for adults with developmental disabilities. In addition, the institute has developed new occupations that enable social participation and ensure adequate incomes for disabled people. Its activities include helping severely disabled workers promote their products and open new markets, bringing tangible benefits.

KDDI pointed out that the most urgent thing to do to help disabled persons lead an independent life is to advance their economic security. To this end, the institute supports vocational training programs for those severely disabled and so unable to go back to their workplace. KDDI also carries out activities commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Welfare like employment programs for job seekers with disabilities and supporting procurement commitments for preferential buying of products made by disabled workers.

Results have shown the institute’s vocational training program helped 29 percent of trainees with severe disabilities find a job last year. This outnumbered the employment rate of the entire severely disabled population, which stands at 21.8 percent. The employment program for disabled job seekers is one of the top-ranking performers in the assessment done by the Ministry of Employment and Labor. Every year the institute hosts a contest to bring in new ideas to help severely disabled workers find new buyers and expand their supply chain.

KDDI also works to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. The institute provides communication and educational programs to help improve disability awareness for state and local governmental organizations, education-oriented agencies and other public organizations. And the institute’s efforts have paid off. The rate of carrying out disability awareness programs has gradually jumped from 19.5 percent in 2016 to a whopping 64.9 percent in 2019, 78.2 percent in 2020 and 88.6 percent in 2021.

Each year, KDDI holds social events and activities such as concerts to increase disability awareness during Disability Empathy Week, which spans ten days starting from the International Day of Disabled Persons on Dec. 3.

KDDI also runs 17 locally based centers for children with severe disabilities and people with developmental disabilities. These centers are committed to protecting the legal rights of disabled people and supporting the families of individuals with developmental disabilities.

The good news is that the total number of people newly experiencing disabilities has dropped significantly, particularly due to fewer traffic accidents and advanced medical treatments in recent years. A survey done by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in 2020 shows nearly 80 percent of the major causes of disability are those resulting from disease or accident -- 43.6 percent and 36.4 percent, respectively.

While existing laws and other measures in Korea are considered as good as those in advanced countries, critics say the country still has a long way to go when it comes to practical implementation so the disabled can feel that the measures really work for them. What stands out most is disability discrimination rooted in society. According to the ministry’s survey, 63.6 percent of respondents replied in the affirmative that they “feel that you are discriminated against because of your disability”.

KDDI emphasizes that to build a society free of bias and discrimination against disability, the first step is to respect and care for each other.

By Yang Jung-won (