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Deaf Architecture:

By: Alannah Colberg

The Deaf and Architecture

Within the Deaf community it is important that there are buildings that are specially made for them like schools and recreational buildings. Architects need to consider that .38% of the population is Deaf. (Mitchell, 2005) There are many questions that a person may have as to what can be done to help the Deaf and hard of hearing community. In Architecture, there are many improvements that can be made so that their lives are as comfortable and as safe as the people who can hear.

Liz Stinson, in her article for Wired Magazine, elaborated on the technical improvements incorporated into the new dorm at Gallaudet University and how it was built taking the special needs of the Deaf into account to create a safe living space that is easy for them to live in. Within the dorm common area they used sloped floors so that more people can see the main speaker through a crowd. They also used an open room floor plan so that no matter what you are doing you can easily face any other person. (Stinson, 2013) The dorm was built for the hard of hearing and the Deaf, but all people can find benefits in these well thought out modifications.

In their recommendations for Universal Design, the Canadian Association for the Deaf lists numerous design elements from a Deaf perspective. The Deaf, like the hearing, have some environmental annoyances that will create distractions. For the hearing one is an annoying sound that that they can't get out of their head. Similarly, the Deaf may find wild, patterned wallpaper annoying. Some can find it distracting, while trying to pay close attention to someone signing, when there is a colorful background. This is one reason why in buildings for the Deaf there is usually just muted one color on the wall. There are other conditions that can cause a person who depends on signing to have a hard time communicating with someone. The lighting of the room is very important to be able to communicate with someone. You need good, even lighting to be able to see the other person's hand movements and for them to see yours. The CAD also states that the Deaf and the hard of hearing can benefit from rounded and sloped corners so they can see people approaching. Another modification is windows throughout the interior of the building to be enable people to see others in different rooms. Floors can be built to be like a dance floor so it has give, creating the ability to use vibrations from foot stomps to gain the attention of other people to initiate a conversation. (Canadian Association for the Deaf, 2015) By basing design on common needs within the Deaf community there are adaptations to building a room, house, or a dorm that can make their life more pleasurable.

The specific needs of the Deaf need to be addressed by architects when designing for the Deaf community in order to create safe and comfortable buildings. But, it goes far beyond a simple question of safety and comfort. According to architect Hansel Bauman of the Sorenson Language and Communications Center "Architecture is one of the key ways a culture manifests itself in the physical world…the desire of the Deaf for the visual access that open space afforded lends itself to express the Deaf way of being. " (Byrd, 2007)  The Deaf culture, like any other culture, can unite by creating an environment that is defined by their collective values.


Byrd T., ( 2007). Deaf Space. Gallaudet Today Magazine, Spring. Retrieved 21, May 2016 from today-magazine/Deaf-space-spring-2007.html

The Canadian Association for the Deaf. (2015) Universal Design, Ottawa, Ontario: Retrieved 25, May 2016 from

Mitchell, R. (2005) Research Support and International Affairs. Retrieved 23, May 2016 from

Stinson L. (2013) The radical challenge of building a dorm for the Deaf. WIRED , 08/26/2013. Retrieved 23, May 2016 from





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