Architectural design often creates spaces that are accessible to many, but not all people. In particular, many buildings are designed for hearing people; those who design with accessibility in mind typically consider the needs of blind people and wheelchair users, but often neglect the needs of Deaf people. Thus, most built environments are hearing-centric and unconducive for Deaf people. Furthermore, the relationship between architecture and accessibility for people with disabilities did not become a priority in the United States until 1990 when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was introduced. The ADA requires architects to think differently and design barrier-free buildings for people with disabilities.
However, the ADA requires only the minimum in terms of accessible architectural design for Deaf people, such as the removal of structural barriers to communication in existing facilities (by adding, for example, a flashing alarm light); hence, some barriers are overlooked. Hansel Bauman, who coined the term “DeafSpace,” has created an architectural framework to address this issue. Bauman is the Director of Campus Planning and Design at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., and produced guidelines on how to design accessible building spaces for Deaf people.
Further, the World Deaf Architecture (WDA) organization, founded by a group of Deaf architects, has a network of Deaf architects who share information on certain designs and guidelines, such as DeafSpace. Some of the WDA members offer DeafSpace consultations to architecture firms on how to provide the best designs for Deaf people’s optimal use.
This thesis used an existing building, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall (LBJ) on the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). LBJ was designed by a team of architects who did their research and provided the best they could; however, they did not apply the principles of DeafSpace, since this concept did not exist at the time. The National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) administration currently has its offices in the LBJ building, and has asked a couple of architects to develop designs and ideas for expansion and renovation utilizing DeafSpace guidelines, and obtaining consultations from WDA members. The primary goal of this design thesis is to apply the principles of DeafSpace to the LBJ Building to create an optimal environment for the students and teachers at NTID, and to improve their functional and sensory experiences within the building.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Barrier-free design; College buildings--Barrier-free design--New York (State)--Rochester--Case studies; College buildings--Remodeling--New York (State)--Rochester; Architecture--Human factors; Deaf--Services for; Communication in architecture
Department, Program, or Center
Julius J. Chiavaroli
Dennis A. Andrejko
Brucker, Christopher William, "DeafSpace™: Existing Buildings Adapted to Provide a More Optimal and Sustainable Environment" (2020). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus