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Interview: Christopher Laing explains why he set up the Deaf Architecture Front

Words:
Christopher Laing

Christopher Laing, founder of the Deaf Architecture Front, discusses the aims of the DAF and the experiences he has encountered on his journey to becoming an architect

Christopher Laing is the founder of DAF, a platform for activism, consulting and research.
Christopher Laing is the founder of DAF, a platform for activism, consulting and research. Credit: Ashton Jean-Pierre

I’ve wanted to be an architect since I was eight, but there have been countless obstacles along the way. First, I couldn’t see any black deaf architects – there were no visible role models to convince me it was even possible for someone like me to get into the industry. Then there’s the language barrier – my first language is British Sign Language (BSL), and the level of written English necessary to get onto an architecture course seemed almost unachievable to me. 

I did, eventually, get to architecture school, onto an MA and into a firm, but my experience was heavily affected by the additional burdens of having to find and manage interpreters, secure disability funding, advocate for myself, and do it all with no-one I could communicate with about my experiences.

These experiences led me to develop SignStrokes – a BSL lexicon of architectural terms – with architect Adolfs Kristapsons, and then to establish the Deaf Architecture Front (DAF), which launched in June. 

Deaf Architecture Front aims to support deaf people who want to work in architecture. Personally, I want the right to do my Part 3 exam in BSL

DAF aims to support deaf people who want to work in architecture. It will provide advice, help secure funding for interpreters so students can do work experience, and encourage the production of information in BSL. Personally, I want the right to do my Part 3 exam in BSL.

DAF will give visibility to deaf architects, and create a network that shares tips and experiences. It will help the deaf community to participate in events – from building tours to public consultations – and campaign to improve guidance on deaf-accessible spaces, from lines of sight to light levels required for BSL. Eventually we will see DAF consultants who can advise on schemes, and ensure deaf perspectives are considered in the architecture of the future. 

deafarchitecturefront.com

 

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