Deaf people have acute observation skills that they acquire in communicating through American Sign Language (ASL) and oral methods of communication (lip reading, speech and cued speech). Therefore, they are more conscious of elements that promote or restrict visual access.  Designing deaf spaces involves a greater sensitivity to the visual environment, such as subtleties of variation in lighting, building features, and walls that might create barriers or obstacles to their visual paths.  

At Dickinson + Partners, we believe that designs are more effective when designed by someone within that culture who fully understands the multiple cultural elements to be considered. This is especially true of designing spaces for Deaf children and Deaf adults.

Having been Deaf since age 2, John Dickinson lives in this world.  He understands the multiple considerations of designing spaces that maximize site lines and emphasize well-placed lighting sources.  The spaces he creates boldly merge passion, creativity and beauty to meet the unique visual needs of Deaf and hard of hearing individuals.


Designing classrooms for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children, must include consideration to the acoustical environment of all functional spaces. While tile floors are popular in schools, they become an acoustic nightmare for a student who is learning to listen through a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Factors that can impact the development of listening skills include

  • The sound level of the person’s voice
  • Ambient noise in the room
  • Noise of adjacent rooms transmitted through partition and ventilating systems
  • Reverberation time of sound in functional spaces.

Static electricity is another important consideration in the environment of cochlear implant users. Since cochlear implants are electrical devices, there is risk of damage to the internal and the external component if faced with high levels of static electricity. Playground slides, rubber surface, carpets and other plastic products may create disruption to the device’s programming.