Going Forward (2) – working with disabled students

Blind artist Lynn Cox explains her design proposal to workshop participants

One important – and expanding project – for next year is to find ways to work with disabled students, educators and practitioners in architectural and built environment disciplines. Only one percent of architects disclose as having an impairment, most probably because to admit to a disability so adversely and severely affects educational and employment opportunities. The actual number is likely to be closer to 10% – mostly hidden disabilities, since the blocks for those with ‘obvious’ impairments are even greater.

So what does this involve? First it is about developing safe spaces and networking mechanisms for disabled people within the architectural field to be comfortable with disclosing and enabling ways of working collaboratively towards forcing change. Then, it is about getting more disabled people into architectural educational and practice, to normalize the actual variety of human diversity across the profession. This, of course, links with the continuing difficulties for women and non-white students and practitioners to make their mark, and needs to be an integrated and emergent process. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, it is about challenging what counts as normal in architectural education and practice. How can design methods, curricula and office practices change, for example, so as to not perpetuate normative assumptions about who and what gets valued in the design process?

Ultimately, until we have more disabled people within architectural and the built environment working as creative design generators, it seems unlikely that designs for the built environment will become more equitable. If you are interested in being involved in this project – a collaboration with Danna Walker and Built By Us – then please get in touch.