As designers it is our job to create spaces that are beautiful to look at, and we rely on our sight in every aspect of our jobs, from choosing carpet samples, to deciding on a layout of navigation through a space. One designer is creating spaces despite lacking this seemingly necessary sense. Chris Downey is an architect living is San Francisco that lost his sight only a few years ago. A tumor was removed on his optic nerve and afterwards he was left completely blind. One would think he would retire or move on to a more suiting career but he has stuck with architecture and design despite his disability.
Downy has implemented new technologies in his office to help him graphically communicate and design with his colleagues. They have an embossing printer, which can print both braille and graphics with raised edges that he can feel. His work has also changed to focus on spaces that are designed specifically for the blind. With his new perspective he is helping to develop much more multisensory spaces that he says will not only make the spaces better and more easily navigated by the blind, but better for everyone.
In his own words he is “without sight, not without vision”.
As designers of the built world it is important to take into consideration all of the people that will be using and navigating our spaces including those who are visually impaired or blind. It is refreshing to see someone taking a disability and making it an asset and improving architecture and opening the design worlds minds to as he says “design with the blind in mind”
Take a listen to his TED talk for more information about how going blind has changed his perceptions of cities and his point of view as a designer.28 Oct ’16 by jessica frakes