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4 Ways Technology Can Improve Architecture for (and by) the Blind

09:30 - 10 July, 2015
4 Ways Technology Can Improve Architecture for (and by) the Blind, inTACT Sketchpad for the visually impaired. Image via Dwell Magazine, Courtesy of Don Fogg
inTACT Sketchpad for the visually impaired. Image via Dwell Magazine, Courtesy of Don Fogg

Seven years after waking up without sight, San Francisco-based architect Chris Downey is helping to revolutionize the built environment with interactive technologies optimized for the blind. One of the world's leading blind architects, Downey intrinsically understands the issues facing blind and visually impaired people worldwide. As a consultant to a variety of organizations serving to advance universal access, Downey has played an integral role in the development and integration of new, non-invasive technologies designed to assist the blind. 

In a recent article in Dwell, Downey illustrates the various technologies currently being tested and implemented in San Francisco - a city notorious for its topographical challenges to differently abled residents. See four takeaways from Dwell's interview with Downey on how technology can help bridge the gap between architecture and universal access after the break.

An Architect's Story: AIA Documentary Profiles Blind Architect Chris Downey

15:00 - 15 May, 2015

As part of their #ILookUp campaign to raise awareness about the importance of the architecture profession, the AIA has produced this short documentary about Chris Downey, an architect who lost his sight in 2008 and has gone on to become a pioneer in designing for the blind and visually impaired. Screened for the first time earlier today at the AIA convention in Atlanta, "An Architect's Story" takes a look into the life and work of Downey and one of his students, Sana Jahani, as they explain what architects can offer the world - and what the #ILookUp campaign means for an architect who is "without sight, but not without vision."

How a San Francisco Architect Reframes Design for the Blind

00:00 - 12 August, 2014
How a San Francisco Architect Reframes Design for the Blind, Downey uses thin wax sticks to create tactile sketches. Image © Patricia Chang
Downey uses thin wax sticks to create tactile sketches. Image © Patricia Chang

San Francisco architect Chris Downey is changing how design is employed for people with disabilities and redefining how architects can approach accessible design. In this article by Lamar Anderson on Curbed, we learn about how Downey has developed his own design methods and utilizes his rare skillset to draw attention to what architects often miss when designing for the public. 

Architect Chris Downey is standing next to a pile of Sheetrock, balancing a white cane in the air like a tightrope walker's pole. The week before, construction had begun on a new office for the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco, or ILRC, a nonprofit community center for people with disabilities. Downey holds the cane up to approximate for the center's executive director, Jessie Lorenz, how the reception desk will jut out at an angle from a concrete column. Lorenz takes a step, and a pile of pipes on the floor clatters. "I don't know what's over there," says Downey. Lorenz giggles. "I hope I didn't break anything," she says. Lorenz regains her footing and touches the cane. "That makes sense," she says. "It's almost like we're funneling people into this part."

Chris Downey: Design with the Blind in Mind

00:00 - 19 November, 2013

Cities are diverse places, home to a rich spectrum of people and lifestyles. Chris Downey, however, believes that there are only two types of people, "those with disabilities and those that haven't quite found theirs yet." Downey, a distinguished architect of over twenty years, lost his eyesight four years ago and found a new way of seeing the world. "If you design for the blind in mind, you get a city that is robust, accessible, well-connected...a more inclusive, more equitable city for all." Hear his story, contrasting his daily life before and after this newly found "outsight."