When you consider technology designed for the hearing impaired, it is likely that hearing aids, cochlear implants, and closed-captioning top the list. Would construction come to mind? Gallaudet University which is the world’s only liberal arts institution for the deaf is architecturally designing space specifically for the hearing impaired. With the goal of making communication and wayfinding more manageable for the deaf and those with hearing problems, the university is providing space that functions more efficiently for these hard-working students needs.
College campuses, traditionally designed in a manner that is not friendly to those who are deaf or hearing impaired, present everyday challenges. Yes, numerous institutions provide services for these students, but Gallaudet University is taking it a step further by addressing the architecture of the university. The design approach at Gallaudet Universtiy known as DeafSpace is design and construction of spaces with hearing-impaired students in mind. The building structure of Gallaudet University addresses common issues for those people who experience difficulty hearing
A tour of the university will show you a campus that appears no different from any other college: students hustling across common areas, others relaxing with books underneath shade trees, maybe a few frisbees flying through the air. However, a closer examination reveals a unique architectural design. Entryways are wider to allow signers room to gesture. Automatic doors are in place, so students do not have to stop mid-phrase to grab a door handle. Common areas feature horseshoe-shaped benches that encourage conversation circles for those with hearing difficulty. Even the lighting makes following signing a more comfortable experience.
The DeafSpace project began in 2005. Throughout the following years, architects developed approximately 150 design elements to address five major points. The goals of addressing the aspects are to promote visual communication, personal safety, and well being:
Gallaudet university continues to push the boundaries of architectural designs for its campus. Focusing on the construction of an environment that considers the needs of deaf and hearing-impaired students, the university is promoting a better more functional learning environment for all of its students.