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Seoul to repair braille blocks

Seoul City will repair worn-out braille blocks and install more on the streets to improve the walking environment for the blind by next year, officials said Wednesday.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said it would repair 40 percent of the blocks embossed with bumps that help the blind find their way. Braille blocks currently span 1,381 kilometers of the city.

The city has earmarked about 29 billion won ($24.7 million) for the project.

The city had conducted on-site inspections with blind residents since March over the braille blocks around subway stations, bus stations, parks, walking paths and entrances to buildings. It found that nearly half of them needed maintenance and reinforcement, with 26 percent of facilities not even having the blocks, officials said.

While most areas around subway stations were well equipped with braille blocks, about 40 percent of areas around bus stops did not have enough installed.

Over half of the braille blocks around parks and entrances to buildings were also below standard, the authorities said.

More than 42,000 blind residents lived in the capital as of last year, according to the city government.

About 1,300 of them on average use the public transportation every day, with the majority taking the subway, it added.

The number was estimated based on an analysis of surveillance cameras set up at bus stops and subway stations, the city said.

In April, the city vowed to boost pedestrian rights for the transportation vulnerable, such as the elderly and disabled.

It pledged to change the material of the braille block from PVC to concrete to prevent slipperiness in the rain. It also said it would lower the crosswalk sills from 20 centimeters to 1 centimeter.

By Lee Hyun-jeong (rene@heraldcorp.com)

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