Consider Including Cognitive Scientists on Your Architectural Teams: Providing Access for Hidden Disabilities

By Valérie C. Kaelin.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In Toronto, there are two marked trends in public architecture: the laudable move towards sustainability and the more controversial expression of architecture as a sculptural object and marketing presence. The latter instance may cause accessibility issues that contravene federal building codes. While providing ramps and elevators for those requiring assistance with mobility, hidden disabilities such as limited spatial dexterity, vestibular damage and hearing impairment can prevent those individuals from functioning comfortably, indeed entering the building at all. Including users from the demographic that an architectural project serves always enhances its functional success. The instance of vestibular damage represents 35.4% of adults over the age of 40 (Vestibular Disorders Association [VEDA] 2011). With the results of rapidly expanding research in spatial perception, including consultants from the field of cognitive science on architectural teams for major civic projects could avert such unintended barriers and better serve the public purse. The observations of a scenographer with vestibular damage provide an intimate account of negotiating destabilizing constructed environments.

Keywords: Cognitive Science and Architecture, Vestibular Dysfunction and Architecture, Accessibility for Hidden Disabilities, Generational Dynamics of Museum Goers, Spatiality, Kinaesthesia and Scenography, Facilitating Multisensory Learning

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.195-212. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.359MB).

Valérie C. Kaelin

Lecturer and Coordinator, School of Image Arts, Certificate in Design for Arts and Entertainment, Ryerson University and York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Valérie C. Kaelin, MFA (theatre, Florida State University, 1978) fosters comparative scenog- raphy in her practice, lectures, and writing. She coordinates the Chang School’s Certificate in Design for Arts and Entertainment at Ryerson University and lectures for the Department of Multi-Disciplinary Studies at Glendon College. Valérie’s design practice spans motion media, live theatre, and installations. Her credits include a Gold Medal for Art Direction at the 1994 New York Festivals for Groundling Marsh (TV), costumes for Jamsil Station Lotte World (Seoul, 2007) and for Théâtre la Tangente (2005). The Digital Media Projects Office of Ryerson University launched the first of her six-part, animated tutorials in manual drafting (2007) in collaboration with Dr. Soheil Homayouni, PhD. (mathematics). Valérie explores mathematics and proprioception as vehicles of insight with her film and scenography students. Her poems make extensive use of kinetic imagery.