Sunday, 1 June 2014

On DeafSpace

Gallaudet University  is the world's only liberal arts university for deaf and hard of hearing people, operating bilingually through American Sign Language and English. As part of new campus developments, it has been developing the concept of DeafSpace - producing a series of principles and guidelines that aim to capture what is special and different in how deaf people make a place for themselves through signing:

 When deaf people congregate the group customarily works together to rearrange furnishings into a “conversation circle” to allow clear sightlines so everyone can participate in the visual conversation.  Gatherings often begin with participants adjusting window shades, lighting and seating to optimize conditions for visual communication that minimize eyestrain. Deaf homeowners often cut new openings in walls, place mirrors and lights in strategic locations to extend their sensory awareness and maintain visual connection between family members.  
These practical acts of making a DeafSpace are long-held cultural traditions that, while never-before formally recognized, are the basic elements of an architectural expression unique to deaf experiences. The study of DeafSpace offers valuable insights about the interrelationship between the senses, the ways we construct the built environment and cultural identity from which society at large has much to learn.
What I enjoy about this work is that it does not merely deal with the 'functional' needs of deaf people, but sees these as completey intertwined with Deafness as a cultural identity and way of being.

Read Todd Byrd, a student at Gallaudet, on DeafSpace

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