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DeafSpace at Gallaudet University

"The DeafSpace approach is only starting to reveal its full potential, and the guidelines are a work in progress rather than a set of proven rules. But already, their close focus on human cognition and emotion, and on the mechanics of bodies in space, feels radical in an age of grand architectural form-making."

A new article in Curbed offers an inspired picture of accessibility through inclusive design. The piece profiles DeafSpace, a design movement rooted in the ways the Deaf inhabit and experience space. DeafSpace was launched ten years ago at Gallaudet University in Washington DC, the world's only liberal arts institution geared to the Deaf and hard of hearing, and has become a game-changer in accessible design.

 

At its heart is design on a human scale, with great attention paid to the ways people connect in both organized and spontaneous ways. When designing a set of new buildings for the growing campus, architects at DeafSpace looked at how every architectural detail worked to facilitate (or potentially inhibit) comfort, connection, and expression.

 

Hallways are widened to facilitate sustained eye contact while walking. Windows are tinted to reduce glare, ensuring the smallest gestures and eye movements are visible. Tables and chairs are set in circles and "U"s so signers can see each other no matter where they stand. Walls are left semi-transparent to reveal when a room is empty and attention to open space allows signers to communicate more effectively from a distance. 

As residencies seek to adjust facilities to accommodate artists who have been traditionally underserved by such opportunities, the principles of DeafSpace might offer inspiration for moving beyond simple notions of accessibility. They also propose an exciting and real potential for spaces to realize their potential to be "multi-sensory environments that ease mobility, express identity, and enhance wellbeing".

Read the full article here: http://www.curbed.com/2016/3/2/11140210/gallaudet-deafspace-washington-dc