By Kim Tae-jong
Unisex toilets for the disabled in subway and train stations are discriminative, the nation’s human rights watchdog said Thursday, recommending their operators improve the situation.
“We concluded that unisex toilets in subway and train stations in the metropolitan area are discriminatory against disabled people as they fail to offer due convenient measures to them,” the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said in a statement.
It recommended those responsible — Korail, Seoul Metro and Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation — come up with necessary measures to improve the situation.
The decision came as four organizations for the disabled such as the Network of Accessible Environments for All and the Institute of the Disabled for Independent Living filed a petition last year, arguing the disabled experience difficulties in using the facilities in many subway and train stations.
According to the NHRC, the ratio of unisex toilets stands at 26 percent, 45 percent and 24 percent at stations of Korail, Seoul Metro and Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation, respectively.
The NHRC said it reached the decision on the grounds that the non-disabled use separated toilets and unisex toilets can make the disabled feel a sense of shame.
Upon the decision, the three operators pledged to renovate their toilets for the disabled, but expressed financial difficulties and space problems.
“We’ve been improving our facilities to provide customers with more convenience, of course including the disabled,” said Han Sang-hoon, an official from the Seoul Metro. “But we face the problem of a lack of budget due to a prolonged deficit. And as many stations were constructed a long time ago, it’s hard to secure the necessary space to renovate the current toilets.”
Taking such problems into account, the NHRC also requested the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs and the Seoul City Government to provide them with financial supports to help them upgrade their facilities.