This was a week long brief. We had to pick two words from a hat and create a dining experience influenced by these words. We got SILVER SERVICE and A SIGN. WE got straight to work associating the words with things and researching into them… At first we thought of the obvious signs you know that tell you where things are or what to do, but then we thought deeper and though about deafness. Its common knowledge that many deaf people in society use sign language.
We decided on the name silver snake. (Snakes are deaf apparently).
We came up with an idea for menus that would use pegs, where the guests could place it next to the item they wish. This concept is not just for deaf people, it is something that everyone can be involved in. Once we had the idea each of use was given a task and we got to work. I created the menus using the laser cutter, and I had an absolute nightmare. All turned out okay in the end though.
Further Development and Research
Background research into impaired hearing
Initially people believed that those who were deaf were not as able as those that could hear. Aristotle says “Those who are born deaf all become senseless and incapable of reason.” Yet sign language dates back to 5BC, it wasn’t until 1591 the first book was published regarding deafness by a German Physician, Alberti. He stated that hearing and speech were separate functions. Alberti believed that Deaf people were rational, capable of thought, even though they lacked speech. He showed that the Deaf can read lips, understand speech, and read, without the ability to hear. In 1620 are the earliest records of Deaf Education which occurred in Spain, but wasn’t until 1890 that the British Deaf Association was founded and the first hearing electronic hearing aid was developed in 1901. Finally in 2003 the British Government recognised British Sign Language as a bona-fide language, in 2009, UK signed the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which viewed sign language on par with spoken languages.
People hard of hearing struggle in day to day life as things are not designed to accommodate them, but benefit those without this problem. There are around 8.7 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK, the majority of these have developed hearing loss through illness, accidents, noise damage or ageing. 50,000 of people use sign language as their first language. It is estimated that around 673,000 people were either born deaf or developed hearing loss in early life (pre-lingually deaf). Being deaf or hard of hearing is classed as a disability but many of these people can read and write perfectly well, however still classed as a disability, as it is not a disability that people are immediately aware of it is known as a ‘invisible’ disability.
Causes and related problems of hearing loss
Hereditary Hearing Loss: This is passed down from parents to children or further up the bloodline, this includes about 200 different types of hearing loss.
Medical conditions related to hearing loss
Acoustic Neuroma: A non-cancerous, but dangerous, tumor developing on nerve strands that are very close to the inner ear. The size of the tumor can create pressure on other organs and can impact the ability to hear, leading to more profound hearing loss. There are different types of surgeries to remove this type of tumor, but all usually result in substantial hearing loss or deafness in the impacted ear.
Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease (AIIED) or Autoimmune Sensorineural Hearing Loss (ASHL): A fluctuating hearing loss, usually on both sides, which is the result of an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or polyarthritis. The patient’s own immune system produces antibodies, which destroy inner ear cells and structures, leading to hearing loss. Can also be referred to as Immune-Mediated Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL).
Balance Difficulties: If your inner ear or the brain are damaged by disease or injury, the vestibular system that helps control balance and eye movements may be impacted. The most commonly diagnosed vestibular disorders include Meniere’s disease, infections of the inner ear, injury caused by head blows, endolymphatic hydrops and perilymph fistula. Other disorders include acoustic neuromas and allergic or autoimmune disorders. There are many different symptoms and many degrees of severity.
Hyperacusis: A painful sensitivity to sound, often a result of excessive noise, head injury, a side effect of some medication or head surgery. Although the person has normal hearing, the tolerance level for some hearing frequencies (low or high) is reduced. See “Recruitment”.
Meniere’s Disease: A broad term covering a variety of symptoms caused by excessive fluid in the inner ear which impact the balance and sometimes also the hearing system. The cause of Meniere’s is not known, but is thought to involve viruses, allergies, circulation problems, or physical trauma. It can affect hearing in one or both ears.
Nerve Deafness: See “Sensorineural Hearing Loss”
Otitis Media (OM): Infection of the middle ear, which causes pressure on the eardrum due to fluid buildup. This causes temporary hearing loss. At times, the pressure builds up sufficiently to rupture the ear drum.Otosclerosis: Caused by excessive bone-like tissue growing in the middle ear which prevents sound waves from entering the inner ear thus causing hearing loss. May be corrected with surgery.
Ototoxic Drugs: These drugs have the potential to damage the inner ear structure and result in temporary or permanent hearing loss. The degree of loss and the possibility for recovery depend on the medication, as well as dosage and duration of use. Existing Sensorineural Hearing Loss (see below) can be aggravated by the use of ototoxic drugs. Ototoxic drugs include antibiotics such as streptomycin, erythromycin, and vancomycin when given intravenously; some chemotherapeutic agents such as cisplatin, nitrogen mustard, and vincristine.
Presbycusis: This hearing loss is caused by the decline of working hair cells in the inner ear due to aging, exposure to loud noise or a genetic reason.
Recruitment: Involves hyperacusis, a painful sensitivity to sound (see above), even though a hearing loss is present. Sound can be distorted and uncomfortable.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss (Nerve Deafness): This most common form of hearing impairment is due to an abnormality of the inner ear, the auditory nerve, or both.
Tinnitus: With tinnitus one hears sounds that aren’t present. People experience it as head noises or ringing in the ears. It may come and go or remain constant, and it may vary in pitch. Tinnitus has many causes and is often associated with hearing loss. Several forms of treatment are currently available.
Noise induced hearing loss
Many people worldwide lose their hearing due to repeated exposure to noise.
“The natural environment of the progressively hard of hearing is that of the hearing world. It is the threat of becoming cut off from this familiar environment that produces all the reactions common to the emotion of fear. It is, for example, the fear of failure in career and the subsequent effects on the family. The fear of meeting new people. The fear of losing friends. The fear of being thought stupid or being misunderstood, and worst of all, the fear of becoming isolated. These are a few of the contributing facts which can lead to a possible withdrawal from society by the progressively deaf person.” (Cornforth, Woods, 1972, as cited in the SHHH Mental Health Committee Brochure)
It is difficult for those who are deaf or hard of hearing when out in public, one main reason is that people may not be able to see they are unable to hear, or in many and most cases people with perfect hearing do not know sign language, this creates a language barrier between the two.
Here is a list of tips for people with this problem when dining out in public from Facing The Challenge, A Survivor’s Manual For Hard of Hearing:
• Choose restaurants with carpeting, booths, and that are reasonably quiet. Keep a list of local restaurants known to be hearing friendly.
• Keep your group small.
• Ask for a quiet booth or table along a wall and away from the dishes and the door – explain why to the hostess or host.
• Eat in off peak times.
• Give a complete order so the waitress doesn’t have to ask you questions.
• Tell the waitress about your hearing and what helps you.
• Sit with your worst ear toward the noise.
• Ask for the music to be turned off or down.
• Be sure you’re not next to a large party of people.
• Sit facing your partner or, if with more people, have your good ear next to the one sitting with you.
• Avoid places with live entertainment.
• Bring and use your personal assistive device.
• Look for the “Specials” visually on the erase board or menu addition.
• Smile at the staff and thank them for helping you.
• If you have to pick up your food when your number is called, ask if they’ll deliver it to you if you don’t respond.
• At a fast food place, tell them if it’s take-out or stay in so they don’t have to ask.
• Ask them to write it down if you can’t hear (the cost, etc.).
• Sit in a well-lit area.
• Have your back to a window.
• Request a quiet room.
• Ask for a menu ahead of time.
• Keep a sense of humour.
Problem and Solution:
It’s made difficult for both the employees of restaurants and those with hearing impairments because of the difference in ways each communicate, creating a language barrier. This issue often faced is that the employees are not trained to serve people unable to verbally communicate. In the past the way restaurants have tried to accommodate this problem is through paper order forms as well as teaching staff how to communicate through signing.
This aim of this project is to design a an app to ‘empower’ those with hearing impairments, by using a generalised menu database to place their orders and audibly communicate this information to the staff through synthesised speech.
They interviewed both the staff and people with hearing impairments and found that each groups struggle with communicating. The idea of this project was to develop an app that would make it easier both staff and people with hearing impairments, through a database of the menu to choose from and also saying aloud to the staff.
The first restaurant opened this year in Toronto in Canada, which is staffed entirely by deaf waiters, set up to invited people with hearing impairments into an environment they feel comfortable in and are easily able to communicate and understand one another. It is open to any customers but encourages people to order their food using sign. Ms Shemuel 38, of Toronto, said: ‘We wanted to create a dining experience to change the misconception that deaf people are disabled, when in fact, they just speak another language.’ There are graphics on the wall showing sign language and even cheat books on the tables. Not only do people with a hearing impairment feel more comfortable in this environment but it also allows people unaware of the difficulties to learn and experience how these people communicate in day to day life. It raises awareness.
A UK based restaurant, Pesto have recently become more aware of the deaf community and the difficulties involved when serving. Mary-Julie MacNally of charity Deaf Connections said: “Many businesses don’t understand just how many people suffer from a hearing loss. This can make people feel excluded from society resulting in a lack of confidence and can even lead to depression.” Because of this the staff have been trained in sign language to make customers with hearing impairments more comfortable and make them feel apart of society.
Design for impaired hearing.
You often find when the world we live in and our environment is designed and developed mainly for the benefit of those able to hear, those with the struggle of hearing have to adjust themselves to this environment. This adjustment they make is known as ‘deafspace’, it is all to make it easier for them to communicate so changing the placing of furniture, lighting and mirrors. In order to gain a greater understanding of deaf space Hansel Bauman an architect in 2005 launched a project on deaf space. Over the past five years the DSP developed the DeafSpace Guidelines, a catalogue of over one hundred and fifty distinct DeafSpace architectural design elements that address the five major touch points between deaf experiences and the built environment: space and proximity, sensory reach, mobility and proximity, light and colour, and finally acoustics. Common to all of these categories are the ideas of community building, visual language, the promotion of personal safety and well-being.
The radical challenge of building a dorm for the deaf
Gallaudet University in the US have around 2,000 deaf or hearing impaired students, they have built a hall of residence adapted around the guidelines of DeafSpace in order to make the students life easier and more enjoyable. The reason for it is as said by Lead LTL architect David Lewis. “There is an understanding that comes from being deaf that interprets, knows and experiences space in a way that those that are hearing cannot.” First of all the entrance has been adapted with large panels of glass with automatic sliding doors, allowing for students to continue in conversation without being interrupted as it’s important they keep eye contact in order to communicate. There are a lot of large windows and along the front of the building to allow students to communicate easily with someone outside when standing inside. The staircase follows a similar concept without walls and and separations it is open, allowing students to communicate from one floor to another. Within the dorms the kitchen is open plan with a central island with sink and utilities which makes it easier to communicate together meaning no one has their back to anyone, as well as this the hallways are also twice the width as a normal hallway, Lewis explains. ”All of this was geared to maximising social intensification, getting away from the way in which dorms are often seen as places for warehousing students. You don’t want students just in their dorm rooms texting, you want to pull them back out and really build a communal, social life.” Even the choice of colour used has been taken into account, such as ‘steely blues,’ red, yellow and bright greens are on the floors to avoid the ‘wash-out effect’ and enhance natural skin tones so facial expressions are more easily readable. The floor plans are open and airy, controlling the acoustics with panelled ceilings and acoustic blankets placed beneath the concrete floors, this means that those using hearing aids are not effected as they would do normally when acoustics are bad. Finally Lewis said, ”This isn’t about accommodating, it’s actually about using the deaf experience as a challenge to make better space. Not simply for the deaf, but for all.”
Design related to hearing
This design of native American sign language by Brayan Zavala is classy and would work well if to incorporate sign language into the decor of a restaurant or environment encouraging people with hearing loss to use with those who can hear fine.
This unique sign language clock uses hand made sculptures to tell the time, it’s a an easy way to educate people sign language of numbers without needing a translation as anyone who can tell the time will know what number each hand represents. This is something that could appear in an environment of both hearing and those who can’t. It’s subtle yet effective.
A-Z Sign Language Doodles – This alphabet of sign language is fun and cute, it’s a good way to get kids to interact and draw their attention to learning sign language. Whether this idea could be developed into more mature illustrations to have the same effect on both young and older adults. Could be humorous, related to food and drink or general words used on a regular basis day to day.
By painter Noel Young, named I love you, this acrylic pieces is stunning and even I didn’t know that sayings were one hand gesture in sign language and is as powerful as the peace sign. This can be incorporated into a brand or used to decorate an environment as well as educate. Also effective when screen printed, demonstrated below by Gregory Beauchamping.
As a hearing person I cannot relate with deaf people and so to develop an experience it was important to ask someone who knows. I contacted Paul Downes, who has been deaf from a very young age, however, he cannot sign and just lip reads. I think people forget that not everyone who has impaired hearing cannot sign. Anyway, I asked Paul for some background and asked about his experiences in bars and resutrantes. His reply was extremely insightful and helped us a great deal. It opened our eyes to things that we had not even considered.
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