Archive for the ‘dyslexic’ Tag

Design for the Blind   2 comments

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Design for the Blind

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Designing for special needs clients is often misunderstood.  For one, there is no space today that is exclusively for the sighted or exclusively for the blind.  Buildings are for people with a variety of needs who have a variety of characteristics.  Therefore, the design must incorporate a mix of approaches.

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS has been designing for the blind, physically handicapped, autistic, developmentally disabled, and learning disabled for 30 years and their completed work creates a friendly environment without shouting “special needs”.      “I learned a long time ago that blindness for most is just a characteristic like short or tall and it comes with its own challenges and limitations; but it is not necessarily a disability” says Dennis Kowal about his experiences with the many blind professionals who conduct rather normal lives.   The majority of the visually impaired get around without a white cane (less than 35% use a cane) or a guide dog (less than 3% use a guide dog).   As a person ages, there is a one in ten chance of major vision loss but then their needs may be different as they may no longer drive, go to school or work.

At the National Headquarters of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D), Dennis’ design was based on orthogonal geometry, the easiest navigation system.     Curves can disorient whereas ninety degree turns are easier to follow for someone with no vision.   That same person  composes a picture of the space from sensing the perimeter as opposed to walking into the middle and looking around as a sighted person might.  Therefore, the placement of furniture and removing obstacles at the perimeter became important to the design process.  Finally, acoustics also help compose the picture.  Large volumes sound different than small spaces or lower ceilings.  And just as too many colors is garish for the sighted, too many sounds can be annoying to the visually impaired.

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Cleanly designed edges with the minimum of obstacles are friendly to both the sighted and unsighted.

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The visually impaired enjoy the same things as everyone else;  fresh air, the warmth of the sun on their face,  and a glare-free environment.   Mechanical shades reduce glare and control the natural light in this lobby.

Since many will enjoy the cafeteria, a connection to the beautiful site through full height windows can still be enjoyed by many. Overhangs and the nearby woods itself  provide natural shading and sound panels in the ceiling control noise. 

Operable windows bring in fresh air to the office area and exterior shading devices allow  Daylight to brighten the interior without glare.

The wetlands were protected by separating the building from the parking lot with this boardwalk through the woods.   Both the sighted and unsighted enjoy a walk in the woods and the wide berth allows guide dogs to pass.

The building wall embraces an outdoor eating area providing a sense of enclosure with the freedom of a wall-less room.

The bottom line is always the happiness of the occupants even in the processing areas where books on tape are distributed across the nation to the visually impaired.

This 83,000-volume Master Tape Library is the largest educational resource of its kind in the world and Dennis designed three continuous movable shelving systems to handle the product. These 12’ tall carousels are 80’ long and rotate by computer signal to bring the selected audio master tape to an opperator for duplicating.

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DKA created custom designed conveyor systems that recognize specific tapes and automatically distribute them.

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS designs for the blind, dyslexic and physically handicapped.

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