My Year as an Open Accessibility Resident

My year at the Design Lab has been very exciting. I am sad to see it coming to an end. As an architecture student, I have always been interested in understanding how to make spaces more accessible to everyone. Now, the Design Lab has given me the opportunity to explore ways we can help make spaces on campus more accessible. This opportunity has allowed me to see beyond the atypical regulations and explore other ways of helping people. For example, the tactile maps project has been a great way to think about how people move around on campus.

For the tactile maps project, we have been looking at maps at different scales for those that are visually impaired as well as how we can use new technology to create the maps themselves. This has been not only an exploration of wayfinding but also an exploration of materiality and technology. Below are examples of some of the work we have produced.

Tactile Map showing the layout of the first floor of Shapiro Library
Tactile Map showing the layout of the first floor of Shapiro Library, designed by the Open Accessibility Residents of the Shapiro Design Lab.

While researching and learning more about accessible design, I was motivated to take a Disability Studies course. One of the first activities that we do in the course is look at the room around you. Think about the space. Is it accessible? Is it comfortable? Who is it designed for? How can people access it? Is there enough room for someone in a wheelchair to navigate into it and potentially through it? These types of questions are what accessible designers are trying to answer. My time at the lab has taught me that the answer can be an explorative one. While meeting with people with visual impairments, they were enthused by the fact that we were trying to help in any way we can. The more we are looking around us, the more we all can explore and potentially find new ways to make spaces more accessible. The more questions we ask, the more answer we can try to find. The first thing we have to do is try and I am really proud of the efforts that we have made at the Design Lab.