Lifelong learning program to secure rights to culture for the disabled

1. Suwon and culture

Suwon is recognized around the world as a learning city that also promotes the right to culture for the more than 43 000 disabled citizens, and received the 2017 UNESCO Learning City Award. It is the first planned city in Korea to have the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hwaseong, and has been certified as a humanitarian city. Suwon was selected for the Lifelong Learning City for the Disabled Project by Korea’s National Institute of Special Education, providing lifelong learning programs on culture and arts for the disabled to recover their cultural rights, which have been compromised by Covid-19.

The city established a learning support system for the vulnerable to support the city’s platform of Education for All and is developing its policies based on SDG 4.

The program aims to provide lifelong learning activities to secure the cultural rights of the disabled.

2. Project goals and implementation

2.1. Main goal and specific objectives

The program aims to provide lifelong learning activities to secure the cultural rights of the disabled, and to build a lifelong learning city for them, as well as an advanced network model.

The specific program goals are:

  1. [Disabled] Enhancing individual engagement and securing the right to enjoy culture by providing quality lifelong learning.
  2. [Disabled + non-disabled] Establishing a foundation for social integration by promoting cultural rights.
  3. Expanding the right to culture and lifelong learning for the disabled by building an inter-organizational network.
  4. Creating an innovative, inclusive, lifelong learning culture city where disabilities do not become obstacles.

2.2. Project development

Various culture-related lifelong learning policies are being promoted for the vulnerable. In particular the disabled have been a key focus, as their rights to learning have been greatly compromised by the pandemic. The main actions carried out by this project are the following:

  • Lifelong learning programs to promote cultural rights for the disabled, such as social clubs. Various and specialized cultural programs were operated including a survival drama of a disabled youth (theater); “I am an Artist Today”, a career experience course to enhance their social integration through museum visits, drawing classes and exhibitions; and “Music Tour with Dessert”, involving classical music performances near their homes.
  • Lifelong learning network for the disabled: a network of officials (experts) from advocacy organizations for the disabled was formed to obtain information about their cultural rights in their surrounding community; a network model across the city was established, thanks to expanded networks of regional hubs.
  • A local community survey to formulate future strategies for a lifelong learning city for the disabled to enhance their cultural rights.
  • A performance sharing meeting regarding a lifelong learning city for the disabled, which provided an opportunity for the non-disabled and the disabled to communicate and promote the cultural rights of the latter.

Other culture-related lifelong learning programs:

  • Ukulele, Lululala: a ukulele performance where the disabled join ukulele club members, in which people with developmental disabilities, who have had limited opportunities to participate in concerts due to Covid-19, show their creativity and artistry and improve their artistic sensibility.
  • Meeting Art at the Book Playground: a reading culture program that offers reading therapy with art activities, psychological tests and reading gatherings, where the disabled can learn how to respect themselves and learn ways to express and control their emotions.

The project malkes learning more inclusive, and provides culture and arts programs for the disabled to meed their growing needs.

3. Impacts

3.1. Direct impacts

The project:

  • Helps the disabled to lead their lives by making learning more inclusive, and provides culture and arts programs for them to meet their growing needs.
  • Ensures equal rights for the disabled by reducing the educational gap between the disabled and the nondisabled.
  • The solidarity between program participants lends momentum and support for additional gatherings and building a highly integrated community.
  • Forms a social network through performance activities in local communities.
  • Contributes to lifelong learning for all and inclusive learning by building a lifelong learning city for the disabled.
  • Builds a foundation for equal participation in society that guarantees basic human rights and helps people with disabilities to live together with non-disabled people in the local community.

3.2. Assessment

Evaluation indicators have been assessed at the initial preparation stage and are largely divided into essential and specific indicators. Indicators include the expansion of networks and the strengthening of the linkage system. Data on registered persons and those who completed the program was collected.

Also, the number of integrated programs for the disabled and the institutions operating lifelong education programs for the disabled allowed to calculate the indicators for access to education, also examining the level of improvement in community participation by disabled participants and the amount of people who took part in social activities.

A total of 8 Suwon-specific indicators were set up, including awareness, educational access, online learning environment for the disabled, the creation of learning-based jobs, satisfaction of workers in organizations for the disabled, Social Skills Rating Scale (SSRS) and satisfaction surveys.

The project has shown outstanding impact, especially in the cultural sector. The number of participants reached 1463, and 51 institutions, meetings and programs were involved in the network.

3.3. Key factors

Our programs are user-centered and are conducted multiple times, supporting participants not only to achieve personal growth, but also become part of a community by joining self-help groups in music or arts. They also help the disabled to create and experience culture, or become artists themselves.

The initiative also helps them to overcome the difficulties caused by the pandemic and to create a community-based learning culture beyond personal growth. Culture played an important role amid the pandemic and the cross-border conflict, thus culture-related support should be prioritized.

3.4. Continuity

The city aims to achieve the goal by 2030, securing budgets to implement specific objectives, and managing the governance based on private-public partnerships to implement Suwon 2030 SDGs. Therefore, the public-private council is a key mechanism to consistently monitor and cooperate to achieve the goal of this project, which started in 2021 and secured the state budget. The additional budget and authority to operate the project are provided, according to the previous year’s results. Suwon was, once again, given the authority and budget in 2022. The same amount of investment from the local government is required to spend on the secured state budget. The city is working hard to lay an institutional foundation for the continuity of the project.

This initiative helps the disabled to overcome the difficulties caused by the pandemic, and to create a community-based learning culture beyond personal growth.

4. Further information

Suwon was a candidate for the fifth “UCLG – Mexico City – Culture 21” International Award (February – June 2022). The jury for the award drew up its final report in September 2022, and requested that the Committee on Culture promote this project as one of the good practices to be implemented through Agenda 21 for culture.

This article was written by Kim Tae-hee, Deputy team leader, lifelong educator, Suwon, Republic of Korea.

Contact: kthedu (at)


Download1.85 MB