Exhibition created by alumnus of Fay Jones school raises awareness of disability and design
This rendering shows the “Accessible Design Awareness” exhibit which will be installed June 11-15 inside the AD EX building, located at 325 N. St. Paul St., Dallas. It was designed by Amanda Collen, a former interior design student.
Amanda Collen, an alumnus of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, created a public interactive exhibit to educate people with disabilities about how the built environment often limits their abilities.
The “Accessible Design Awareness” exhibit will be installed June 11-15 inside the Architecture and Design Exchange building, also known as AD EX, located at 325 N. St. Paul St., Dallas. The building houses AIA Dallas, a chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Collen will also be giving a virtual talk on the exhibition at 6 p.m. on June 3. The virtual conference is free and open to all, and registration is available on the AD EX website.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in interior design in 2018, Collen went to work as a designer at DLR Group in Dallas. Recently she has been working on designs for cultural and artistic projects.
During the pandemic, Collen’s workload eased a bit and she was given extra time. She spent part of that time painting, and then decided to seize an opportunity that DLR Group offers its 1,200 employees each year. They can apply for a personal development scholarship to pursue an exciting project that doesn’t have to be related to their job or day-to-day job.
The grant translates into $ 5,000 and 80 hours of time paid by the company to work on the project. Proposals require a statement of passion, a list of peer benefits, a summary of deliverables, an approximate timeline, and an estimated budget. Some grant recipients have used it to research software development technology or write a children’s book on architecture and design.
Collen applied in November and was one of four employees to receive a grant out of a few dozen proposals.
Collen’s project aims to help the general public understand the experiences of people with disabilities. The built environment is primarily designed for the average able-bodied person, but often does not take into consideration the needs of those with marginal abilities.
And those margins aren’t that narrow, Collen said. About 26% of people in the United States live with some type of disability. Among these people, 13% have mobility problems. Not to mention that as everyone ages, their abilities usually decline, whether it’s with sight, hearing, mobility, or a host of other things.
For years, Collen has watched his Aunt Kim, the wife of his mother’s brother, struggle with mobility and interact in the built environment. Her aunt was in a car accident when she was 16, leaving her quadriplegic. Since then, she has needed to use a motorized wheelchair.
“I want to give a voice to these people with disabilities in one way or another and just raise awareness of what’s going on,” Collen said. “”
From his years in design school, Collen recalls a class with a former interior design professor, Nann Miller, who made accessibility a priority in design. In search of a studio project, Collen navigated her daily life for 72 hours in a wheelchair. Collen also worked on a design-build project for a bus stop with architecture professor Frank Jacobus in 2017. She then traveled to Maine in the summer of 2018 as part of a design-build where selected students from across the country designed and built a public bathhouse for an island community.
So, for her grant project, Collen combined these passions and experiences, and she came up with a design-build project that focuses on raising awareness of people with disabilities and their experiences of navigating the built environment.
For professional designers, she said, it’s important that accessibility aspects are taken into account at the start of a design – so that the end result is more fluid and streamlined – rather than adding them to the mix. end as a requirement.
“You can tell when something is an afterthought,” she said. “But with a good design, it won’t be an afterthought.”
A basic building entrance can pose many potential complications for a person with limited abilities – such as the weight of the door, the type of door handle, the height of a door sill, the width of the door it -even and the access leading to it, such as steps up a slope or a ramp.
To develop his project, Collen wanted to do more than research through documents and statistics. She wanted to hear the stories of people first-hand and discover the complexity of the experiences of the people who have lived them. She therefore contacted and interviewed 12 people living with a disability, including her aunt.
“After talking to so many people who live with limitations or illnesses, they are able to do a lot of things that able-bodied people can do. But they just need to find a different or modified way of doing it,” he said. she declared. . “And a lot of them would say they’re not disabled; the built environment is what makes them disabled.”
Collen shares their stories through his exhibition, writes short biographies and includes their thoughts. To preserve the anonymity of the people she interviewed, she only uses their first names, and each is identified by a simple portrait in silhouette. She names the cause of their disability and uses icons to denote the types of assisted devices they use – wheelchair, walker, cane, etc.
The events that reduced their mobility are varied, including falls, car accidents and strokes. A man was serving in the army in Afghanistan in his early twenties when he fell from a helicopter a few feet above the ground, but with heavy ammunition strapped to his back. He fractured both hips and underwent reconstructive surgery, and spent a lot of time on crutches and in a wheelchair. Collen also spoke to a Seattle architect who suffers from a bone disorder, which causes weakness in her bones and makes her dependent on a wheelchair.
Collen also created a Youtube channel to document the project and chronicle its progress. This platform will also allow him to share his project more widely for more impact. A video presents her interview with her aunt Kim.
For the exhibit, Collen created five stations that show various design elements and help demonstrate how they can impact people with reduced mobility. Stations relate to doors, ramps, surface textures, as well as table clearances, workstation shelves, and the space needed to navigate in a wheelchair. Visitors can sit in a wheelchair and navigate the space to see what it looks like.
Alex Nichols, a former classmate of his own carpentry business, Rustic customs of the black dog, builds the stations from his construction drawings. They will both assemble and install the parts on site and do the finishing touches, such as painting and hanging signage. Collen has marked in blue the aspects of each station that meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act; those aspects which do not correspond to the ADA code are marked in red.
Collen hopes people will come in and experience the stations from the perspective of “those who are disabled and limited in some way, and understand how the built environment handicaps them more.” that, “she said.” It shouldn’t be that difficult for people with disabilities. ”