Design Guidelines for Creating More Equitable Cities

Kim O'Connell reports on a new set of design guidelines, produced by Gallaudet University, the nation’s leading institution for the deaf and hard of hearing, that recognize space is an essential part of how people with hearing challenges communicate.

O'Connell examines the ways in which urban environments can harm the quality of life, and even safety, for people with hearing difficulties, and the efforts of a team lead by Hansel Bauman, director of campus design and planning at Gallaudet, to develop a series of guidelines to aid designers in producing urban environments that "address those aspects of the urban environment that inhibit communication and mobility among those who communicate with their hands."

The document, called DeafSpace Guidelines, "details five major elements involved in deaf interactions with the built environment, including space and proxemics (the study of how space is used in interpersonal communication), sensory reach, mobility and proximity, light and color, and acoustics and electromagnetic interferences," writes O'Connell

The guidelines have already been put to use in the design of new campus buildings. The new Sorenson Language and Communication Center, designed by SmithGroup, "features long, open sight lines, visibility between floors, gently curving corners, and ample windows."

Studio Twenty Seven are also using the guidelines to aid in the renovation of five existing residence halls. According to Principal Todd Ray, "If you look at the DeafSpace Guidelines, you realize that understanding the essence of space and making connections leads you toward really good architecture. It's the foundation of what makes architecture good and rich and sensual."

Full Story: Designing a City for the Deaf

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