Architects and Visually Impaired People: Analyzing Two Ways of Talking

DS 58-1: Proceedings of ICED 09, the 17th International Conference on Engineering Design, Vol. 1, Design Processes, Palo Alto, CA, USA, 24.-27.08.2009

Year: 2009
Editor: Norell Bergendahl, M.; Grimheden, M.; Leifer, L.; Skogstad, P.; Lindemann, U.
Author: Vermeersch, Peter-Willem; Strickfaden, Megan; Herssens, Jasmien; Heylighen, Ann
Section: Design Processes
Page(s): 495-506


While architects think and work in a visual way, people who are visually impaired may pay more attention to other senses and, as a result, are able to appreciate other spatial qualities. Because of this particular ability, our research explores how to enhance communication between architects and visually impaired people. While there may be significant disparity between how architects and visually impaired people talk, this paper seeks points of connection that support enabling a genuine dialogue between these two groups. The study reported here aims to gain insights into how both groups talk about the built environment by comparing two independent data sets: four in-depth interviews with architects, four with visually impaired people. Through analysis of the spoken word, we identify common ground and central differences between both groups. On this basis, we discuss potential elements that may challenge or facilitate developing connections towards deeper conversation between architects and visually impaired people. While the study focuses on architectural design and visual impairment, the findings may be transferable to communication between designers and non-designers in general.

Keywords: architectural design, communication, non-designers, spoken word, visual impairment


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