What Is Deaf Space?

Recently, I was exposed to the concept of “Deaf Space.” The idea behind “Deaf Space” is the architectural concepts used to design a home or living space for the deaf that maximizes sensorial orientation. This conceptualization of modern architecture allows for open spaces and better use of natural and artificial light throughout the home for maximum visual and kinesthetic sensory utilization. The concept is not new, dating back over 100 years ago, and implemented in a number of different atmospheres for the deaf and hard of hearing. In 2005, the Deaf Space Project (by Hansel Bauman) created a catalogue for any architect to access the design options to maximize Deaf Space elements.

1.2.1 Program Adjacencies
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There are five distinct space elements that can be considered when constructing a “Deaf Space”. The first element is Sensory Reach. Sensory Reach is the practice of allowing for the greatest space in the visual field of any subject in a given room. Wherever the person stands in the room, they may be able to see “tactile cues” such as shadows, movement, and vibrations. This could include rounded corners or distinctive placement of mirrors. Sensory Reach could be anything to maximize the area of sight and ability to see a wide circumference of the room at hand. Another element is The Space and Proximity. Space and Proximity refers to the dimensions within a room that dictates how the walls and furnishings enclose a space. This allows for the greatest delivery of visual cues and communication. Mobility and Proximity is an element that calls for large spaces such as hallways and no rounded corners within the house to allow for the appropriate space for signers to move and simultaneously communicate and move about the house. Light and Color play a huge role in constructing Deaf Space, as colored walls are chosen to contrast with skin so there is plenty of distinction between signers and surroundings. The light is constructed throughout the house to allow for less glare, soft artificial lighting and maximum exposure to daylight. Finally, Deaf Space considers the room’s Acoustics– that is- Rooms that remove reverberation that causes great distraction.

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A few modifications that people may see in a space that has been deemed a Deaf Space are glass doors that slide without reverberation and allow for clear sight through to the other room it leads to. You may see an entire office space or home with nothing but hardwood floors- no carpets- to allow for the necessary vibrations to travel. Office buildings include multi-story see-through-stairways so individuals can get attention from different floors of the complex. Hallways and office cubicles are built with no rounded corners and wide hallways to allow for great spatial communication.

Building a Deaf Space for ‘deaf needs’ sounds as if it’s a way to say that someone is attempting to recognize the things that are being implemented for a visually accessible household that may not necessarily be required for a hearing household, as audible cues would be the main mean of communication throughout the house. It may be a concept of thinking that things are being made different to accommodate a hearing loss when in actuality, it could be an upgrade to living in a more visually cued lifestyle- whether we are hearing or deaf. As a hearing person, I would love to have these designs in my home or in my workspace. I think they could benefit any person, deaf or hearing. It could strengthen our ability to live and communicate visually. It would also allow for a better source of energy reliance, using more natural light, less unnecessary plaster/wood, etc…

Would you think? Would you think about using these elements for your home or office?

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