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Copyright © 2013 by Yara Safadi and the Master of Industrial Design program at The University of the Arts Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Yara Safadi, unless otherwise noted Photography credits: All photography created by © 2013 Yara Safadi, Nidhi Jalwal, Davis Hermann, Lonnie Petersheim, and Charles H. Lee unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced-mechanically, electronically, or by any other means, including photocopying-without written permission of the publisher. Cover design by Yara Safadi Book design by Yara Safadi Master of Industrial Design at The University of the Arts 320 South Broad Street Philadelphia, PA 19102 First printing: 2014

by Yara Safadi

DESIGNING DEAF COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT The Deaf Outreach Program Liberty Resources, Inc. A collaboration between Yara Safadi, Nidhi Jalwal, Davis Hermann, Lonnie Petersheim, Charles H. Lee, and the Deaf Outreach Program at Liberty Resources, Inc.

Published by

320 South Broad Street Philadelphia, PA 19102

ACKNOWLEDGMENT A special thanks to Harry Barnum, Nancy Salandra, and the Deaf community at Liberty Resources, Inc. You inspired us every step of the way. Thanks to my collaborators on this project: Nidhi Jalwal, Davis Hermann, Lonnie Petersheim, and Charles H. Lee. I couldn’t have asked for a better design team, you are all brilliant and I learned so much from you. Thank you Michael McAllister, Chris Garvin, Jeremy Beaudry, Jonas Milder, Sherry Lefevre, Jeffery Wolper, and Pamela Tudor for all your guidance and support.



















First Encounters There is a distinction between the terms: ‘persons with disabilities’ and ‘disabled persons.’ When one describes a person with a disability as a ‘disabled person’, it is as if one is defining that person by his or her disability. This definition may cause that individual to feel offence, as their disability does not define who they are or what they can accomplish as individuals. Teresa, a young determined woman, greets us and leads us on a tour of our partner’s building. She holds our attention with an unforgiving presence. We would later learn that, these qualities were notorious amongst her coworkers who referred to it as her “mental whip” which no one can escape. When I initially saw her in her wheelchair, having a severe condition of Cerebral palsy and persisting to make her speech understandable to the group, my emotions were in complete confusion. I wanted to do something, extend a hand, perhaps make the speech for her, but couldn’t. Nevertheless, her determination, confidence and strength, reassured me that she doesn’t need me, or anyone, to help her communicate with others. Inside the building, we saw giant posters of individuals with disabilities at national events fighting for their rights and representing their community. Signs with encouraging words were displayed on the walls. As I started to


scan through them, I began to make my first assumptions about our partner’s high level of activity and engagement in needs and rights of individuals with disabilities. As Teresa guided us through the building, we were introduced to so many friendly faces. Hearing the different stories about the challenges and struggles that they face, I felt both overwhelmed and powerless, and at the same time grateful for the opportunity to work with and hopefully contribute to this underserved community. On our tour, we gathered a lot of information about our partner, Liberty Resources, Inc. (LRI) and the community it serves. LRI, is a Consumer driven, non-profit organization, that advocates and promotes independent living for persons with disabilities. Over 50 percent of their board, as well as their employees are persons with disabilities. LRI works closely with persons with disabilities in the Philadelphia region to ensure they have civil rights and equal access to all facets of the community in which they live in. At LRI, there are consumers who receive services, and there are volunteers who are consumers turned volunteers, who decided to support the organizations’ mission. As Teresa finally led us to our designated destination on the third floor, she bid us farewell and we were introduced to our two main contacts: Nancy Salandra and Harry Barnum. Nancy is the Director for Independent living for

LRI, and Harry is the Deaf Outreach & Advocacy Coordinator. We initially knew we were working with the Deaf community at LRI but we had no information beyond that. As my teammates and I were new to working with the Deaf community, we went in with a beginner’s mind and were nervous yet excited about what was unfolding.

Beginner’s Mind When we started the project, we entered with a beginner’s mind. This method encourages one to leave behind past assumptions that come from previous experiences. It allows for one to better expose the important issues.


It is important to note that there is a difference between using Capital D (big D) Deaf and, small d when describing the deaf. If one uses the big D Deaf, it is meant to describe the cultural label, but when one uses the lower case d in the word deaf it is meant to describe the audiological condition. As we stood outside of Nancy’s office space, we glanced over to where Harry was teaching an English Proficiency class to a group of Deaf adults. I was immediately drawn in: I heard no sounds, yet witnessed a dynamic interaction between teacher and students. They were communicating with each other in American Sign Language (ASL). After being noticed by the class, my teammates and I were invited into the classroom. Harry and the students were very welcoming and pleasantly bright. Although we could not communicate with them using ASL, we improvised and started a conversation utilizing the classroom whiteboard to exchange written words. And, despite the fact that we had completely different means of communication, it wasn’t long before we assumed a commonality and made a connection over it: the group of deaf students appeared to us as a diverse and international group, and on the other hand, my teammates and I were in fact a very diverse and international group. After the tour, we returned to our studio. The studio is our main collaboration space. A crucial part of our process as designers is that we collaborate and work collectively on our shared design problems. Reflecting on our initial experience, we found that our observation and participation revealed to us a world we were unaware of, and that we set out to discover.

Guided Tours Guided tours are designed to assist in leading a conversation using the stakeholder’s environment to spark questions and insights. (184)


“I was immediately drawn in: I heard no sounds, yet witnessed a dynamic interaction between teacher and students. They were communicating with each other in American Sign Language (ASL).�



Discovery Reflecting on our experience from touring LRI, my teammates and I created an affinity map from what we observed, heard, and felt. “I felt like a person with a disability� was one of the first things I jotted down. In a sense, my disability came from being unable to communicate with the deaf students, and I wondered about their experience in a world of hearing, where they cannot communicate with a majority of the population. The wheels of discovery were set in motion and we needed to learn as much as possible about the community with whom we will be designing.


The Deaf Outreach Program at LRI’s mission is to advocate for the deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing communities.

Services provided are shown below.

Timeline of History + Development of the Deaf Outreach Program at LRI

The program started in 2010. Harry Barnum, was recruited by LRI as the Program’s coordinator. At the beginning, only 7 deaf individuals participated in the program, but soon enough, word of mouth spread amongst the Deaf community and participation grew from 7 to over 100 individuals in just 2 years. However, in order to learn about our stakeholders, the Deaf community at LRI, we needed to better our understanding of the Deaf community at large. In our design research phase, we conducted both external research and primary research.


External Research Learning American Sign Language (ASL) Sign Language (SL) is a visual, spatial language without a written natural form. ASL is a form of SL that is mainly predominant amongst the Deaf communities of North America, Canada, West Africa and Southeast Asia. We knew we couldn’t learn an entire language in a short period of time, but we also knew that knowing at least some ASL might break down the barrier of communication between us, and the Deaf community. We memorized the alphabet, as well as how to spell our names, say thank you, ask simple questions, and make funny expressions. It was extremely exciting to learn and explore ASL as an entirely different way of communicating with others. To me, it highlighted the absence of a more human interaction in the hearing populations’ communication form: we tend to avoid eye contact, and most importantly, many times we are not fully focused and present with the people that are trying to communicate with us.


Understanding Deaf Space The nature of ASL as a visual spatial language requires the surrounding environment to cooperate with its form. The space is integrated into the very nature of this language. If one cannot see or move well in the space, one cannot use SL properly. In 2005 architect Hansel Bauman started the DeafSpace Project (DSP) at Gallaudet University. The project introduces a catalog of over a hundred and fifty unique architectural design elements that consider the experience of a deaf individual in a built environment. The points of interaction that are addressed are: space and proximity, sensory reach, mobility and proximity, light and color, and acoustics. Furthermore, the design of these interactions is focused upon making things visual, safe, and supportive of community building. Learning about Deaf Space opened our eyes to the way our environments are designed, and highlighted that most buildings we walk through are not very considerate of deaf individuals.

Attending a Deaf Social Event Considering our participatory approach, we wanted to interact with the Deaf community and learn first hand about them and their experiences. Through LRI, we learned about a Deaf social event at a coffee shop and decided to attend. Before attending, our expectations (considering it’s called a Deaf social) were that deaf individuals attend this event to socialize. In fact we were nervous about how to communicate since we don’t know ASL. However, when we arrived we noticed that there were only two deaf individuals, and the remaining attendees were practicing interpreters. To our advantage, we were able to communicate with them and ask them questions about their knowledge of the deaf community, and why they chose to learn ASL. They had interesting stories and taught us a few signs that we could add to our ASL vocabulary. One individual for example, met a deaf girl and wanted to learn ASL to be able to talk to her. Another was an artist and considered SL a beautiful expressive form of communication.


Interview with David J. Thomas at UArts David J. Thomas, the Educational Accessibility Advisor at UArts, had extensive knowledge about the Deaf, as he had studied their culture as part of his dissertation. An interview with him helped us learn about Deaf Culture, and its history. Deaf culture is usually used to describe the deaf community’s history, social beliefs, traditions and values. Furthermore, historically, when the deaf would meet at social events they would spend many hours there because they don’t get a chance to meet that often. Hence the term: Deaf Standard Time (DST). DST is the delay in time between the hearing and the deaf because communicating through SL takes much longer. A “Deaf State” was even proposed by John J. Flournoy, in the 19th century. Flournoy, a deaf graduate of the American School for the Deaf, advocated for a state (now Utah) to be dedicated for all deaf individuals, and where the main language would be ASL. His proposal was not widely accepted even by his colleagues at the time. David also provided us with an introduction to Cochlear implants and the controversy surrounding them: some are proponents of the implant, and some are against it.

Tour at Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (PSD) PSD is the third oldest school dedicated to the education of the Deaf in the United States. Founded in 1820, the school is located in the heart of Germantown, Philadelphia, in a beautiful Victorian building, which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Currently, PSD educates around 200 deaf and hard of hearing students between the ages of 3 to 21. The students come from in and around the Philadelphia area. They learn ASL, as well as written and spoken English.

Guided Tours Guided tours are designed to assist in leading a conversation using the stakeholder’s environment to spark questions and insights. (184)

At the tour, we were introduced to the concept of mainstreaming and the controversy around educating the deaf. Mainstreaming means: educating students with special needs in a regular classroom. Some consider schools like PSD very costly for the government, but mainstreaming is not a solution. We were told that deaf students cannot benefit from mainstreaming because they require individualized teaching where they can use ASL to communicate. When mainstreamed, not only do they not receive full attention, but they also struggle to socialize with hearing students because of communication barriers. From our tour guide, who is a mother to a deaf child, we learned about how, while she learned ASL when told her daughter was deaf, many other parents to deaf children don’t learn the language, and hence, many deaf students 31

only communicate when at school. Some spend weekends, and even summer vacations in non-communication mode. One can only imagine the difficulties and frustrations that would arise from spending long periods of time without communicating. On our tour, we saw how the design of the building was very attentive to Deaf Space. We also attended a classroom, which had 3 graduating seniors and two instructors. The teenagers were all planning on going to Gallaudet University for further studies. It was interesting that they were all wearing cochlear implants. As we would learn, despite the controversy in Deaf culture, most hearing parents today have their deaf children undergo a cochlear implant surgery to provide them with some type of hearing aid. Our tour broadened our scope, and highlighted further problems in communication, health, and especially education. 33

The infographic below, shows the basics of cochlear implants:


Primary Research As I mentioned in the introduction, our initial observation of the English Proficiency class, had us make the assumption that the students were international immigrants. But we later learned that only one student was such. At that moment in time, and a few weeks into our project, LRI did not have an interpreter on-site. However, it wasn’t long, and to our advantage, before they had finally managed to hire a full-time interpreter for the Deaf Outreach Program. Thus, moving forward in our project, we were able to better communicate with Harry and the Deaf community at LRI.


Interviewing Volunteers and Consumers We interviewed Sihn, a young and bright deaf volunteer at LRI, and Luis, a cheerful family man who is a hard of hearing consumer at LRI. From these two men we learned about popular communication modes amongst the deaf, and about the difficulties of finding a job Popular communication technologies are smart phones and any device that supports video chat, texting, and social networking. Deaf individuals find applications and software that replace phone communication extremely crucial in their daily lives. Some of the popular applications include Tango, and the videophone software nTouch. Many deaf individuals come to LRI especially to use the latter. nTouch contains a service that connects you with a live interpreter and allows deaf individuals to make phone calls to hearing individuals through the interpreter. Furthermore, both Sihn and Luis expressed the frustrations of finding a job. In the case of deaf individuals, the communication barrier plays a big role in this struggle. We empathized with this, as there was no interpreter present when we met with the two men and thus we used paper and pen to communicate back and forth throughout the interview.

Interviews Interviews are an essential method in the research phase of a project. It allows for direct contact with participants where one can gather firsthand accounts of the stakeholders experience, opinion, attitudes, and perceptions (102).

In addition to this barrier, unlike Sihn who received his associates degree from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), many deaf individuals don’t get the right education because of financial constraints, mainstreaming, and other such difficulties, which make them even less qualified for good jobs.


“If they continue to segregate themselves, it’s going to destroy them.” Nancy Salandra


Interview with Nancy When we met with Nancy, it always had a special impact on our design team. From her we heard local stories about deaf individuals who have been abused and discriminated against. For instance, she described a deaf individual who was beaten up in one area of South Philadelphia and thrown in the basement, not to be discovered until a long period of time had passed because he had no voice to scream for help. Another instance was when a deaf individual was robbed and the police could not help him until an interpreter arrived, and that dragged on for hours until it was too late. Nancy also pointed out how the deaf do not perceive themselves as part of the community with disabilities. Their perception of themselves is that of a culture that has different means of communication, and for that reason they continually distance themselves from society at large. They strongly identify with their culture, yet she says that “they (individuals with disabilities) have jobs, and you (the deaf) don’t!” She too, stresses the employment struggles amongst the Deaf. As Nancy puts it: “If they continue to segregate themselves, it’s going to destroy them.”

Mind Mapping The mind mapping method provides a way to visually organize a problem, especially when it contains many facets, thus allowing for a better understanding of that problem (118).


“Harry explained that there is a “wall” between the hearing community and the Deaf.”

Interview with Harry Harry, who is an extremely intelligent deaf man with leadership qualities, is not only representing the Deaf community at LRI but is representing the Deaf community in Philadelphia at large. He works closely with city officials to further advance his cause advocating for his community and their needs. From Harry’s extensive knowledge, we gathered crucial insights to our research and we improved our understanding of Deaf culture. From our very first interview with him, we used visual aids, which served as boundary objects and helped us communicate better. Also, Roslyn, LRI’s interpreter, played an extremely important role in supporting our conversations with Harry. A key analogy he provided us with in one of our interviews was the “Wall” analogy. Harry explained that there is a “wall” or a barrier between the hearing community and the Deaf. He always referred to the wall when explaining the multiple struggles that the Deaf encounter.


To further our understanding, we provided Harry with multiple generative research tools. One tool was a visual representing the wall analogy where we asked him to help us fill in elements that contribute to the existence of this barrier. Anxiety, discrimination, and communication were some elements that played a key role. We also wanted to understand better his personal outreach efforts, so we provided him with a mind map that highlights his outreach activities. Harry’s Outreach Efforts

Factors Affecting Deaf-Hearing Relationship

Generative Research Generative design tools, provide a way for stakeholders to express their ideas, opinions, and needs. They also allow a more engaging conversation. The result is meaningful information and insights for concept development (94).

Another key insight gained from Harry involves the fragmentation of the Deaf community in itself. Even internally, just like any other culture, there are sub groups where one group looks down on another. An example is, that a fully deaf individual may not consider a hard of hearing individual as part of Deaf culture. Harry’s efforts are getting recognition from city officials, however, he is still working hard to get the community on board and advocate for themselves: one hand cannot clap alone. Illustrations on this page and on facing page created by: Yara Safadi, Nidhi Jalwal, Davis Hermann, Lonnie Petersheim, and Charles H. Lee



Key Opportunities Two months of design research allowed us to better understand and identify key opportunities. Making sense of the data we have gathered, and many affinity maps later, we finally came to a synthesis of key opportunities where we hope to continue our design process to facilitate meaningful change and provide support for the Deaf community. By making connections between our key findings, the qualitative as well as quantitative data, we felt that Harry’s point about the Deaf community’s fragmentation was crucial. In such a small community, fragmentation can only support further discrimination against them. As Harry describes it “when the community with disabilities go to advocate for themselves, many show up and they form a large visible crowd, but it’s not like that with the Deaf community.”


Below are the key opportunities:


In order for Harry’s advocacy efforts to be fruitful, he needs the support of the people he is advocating for. The Deaf community needs to come together and realize their frustrations can only be resolved, and needs met, if they advocate for their rights as a community. That was our Aha moment. Our decision was clear: we wanted to focus on supporting Harry’s outreach efforts by supporting community building starting from the very inner circle of communication. Entry Point: Deaf advocacy in Philadelphia will be more effective with further support from the Deaf community. Our goal is to begin strengthening the Deaf community at Liberty Resources (step 1), and by doing so to set the stage for future steps to be taken outside the Deaf community.

Illustrations created by: Yara Safadi, Nidhi Jalwal, Davis Hermann, Lonnie Petersheim, and Charles H. Lee

Affinity Diagramming A process that is used to externalize research findings and to meaningfully cluster important observations and insights. It allows for design teams to be grounded in data as they continue designing (12).


“Entry Point: Deaf advocacy in Philadelphia will be more effective with further support from the Deaf community. Our goal is to begin strengthening the Deaf community at Liberty Resources.�



Ideation + Prototyping Harry organizes many workshops that the Deaf Outreach Program provides. We further wanted to know about his outreach efforts, so we found an opportunity to attend and observe a housing workshop that was meant to teach deaf individuals that they have options and resources if they needed them. This observation provided us with many cues on how a workshop is run and why it is such a great format. The nature of ASL, as a visual spatial language, requires face to face interaction and space for expression. Other elements we observed in the housing workshop were the multiplicity of visual displays, the design of the space and seating arrangement.


Considering our entry point was to spark a community conversation, we started to consider a workshop as a possible format that would be regarded in the ideation phase.

Observation Observing and recording phenomena is a fundamental research method in any project. Phenomena include: people, artifacts, environments, events, behaviors and interactions (120).


Brainstorming A method by which groups or individuals come up with concepts and creative ways to address a specific problem.

Image Credit: UArts Professional Institute for Educators

Image Credit: Public Workshop

In our brainstorming sessions, we looked at what other designers and artists have done around Community building. Examples include: • Candy Chang’s - “Before I die” • Alex Gilliam’s - “Public Workshop” • Mural Arts in Philadelphia All three, revolved around community building, and sparking a meaningful conversation through collaboration. We then decided that a workshop would be the most suitable format for attaining our shared goal. We came up with three ideas/concepts for the workshop:

Baking workshop

Persona workshop

Mural workshop

Concept illustrations created by: Yara Safadi, Nidhi Jalwal, Davis Hermann, Lonnie Petersheim, and Charles H. Lee


We created storyboards of these ideas and presented them to Harry, for feedback and further development of the content. Harry chose the Mural workshop, and thought it was a feasible idea. We were very excited to start planning.

Storyboards: Baking Workshop

Baking cookies as a boundary object for participants to start a conversation around “what it means to be deaf.” Participants are given the ingredients and are asked to collaborate.

The task is to decorate the cookies in a way that revolves around the initial prompt of “what it means to be deaf.”

The goal is to spark a conversation. From this discussion, key themes and ideas will start to emerge.

Using various mediums the group will start creating a persona. The mediums could include: magazines, paint, paper. The intention is a fun session regardless of artistic skills.

The goal will be to collaborate and to initiate a discussion around “what is an ideal person in the Deaf community.’ The created persona will serve as an inspiration and also as a medium to inform the participants about their similarities - sparking a sense of belonging.

Persona Workshop

The goal is to create an ‘ideal’ persona from the deaf community’s perspective. Participants are provided with big person like shapes to start giving it identity.

Mural Workshop

Small groups are formed. The distribution of the triangles (made out of colored Plexiglas).

Prompts are engraved on one side, and participants are asked to express and visualize their thoughts on the other. In the process a conversation is sparked

The triangles are then gathered and assembled together to represent a community mural.

Storyboards Storyboards are a visual way of communicating ideas and concepts to the stakeholder. They visually capture the context of the idea, taking into consideration the various factors that play a role in implementing a prototype (170).

Storyboard illustrations on this page and on facing page created by: Yara Safadi, Nidhi Jalwal, Davis Hermann, Lonnie Petersheim, and Charles H. Lee


We created a structured event, and considered various methods and tools to attain our goal of sparking a community conversation. As for the idea of creating a shared mural, we developed a modular system where the mural would be created out of individual triangles. Each triangle would include 1 of 6 prompts that we engraved onto one side of the triangle. The way we structured the workshop, was that the community would work in groups of 4-5 individuals. Each group would receive a set of triangles and would be asked to respond to the prompts by drawing or writing on the clear side of the triangle. After going through the prompts individually, they would later have a shared conversation within their small groups and would finally move on to share their conversation with the larger group of attendees. The prompts were (in order of level of difficulty):

What is your name?

I am really good at _____

What about you surprises people?

What do you love about the Deaf community?

Before I die, I want to _____

What does it mean to be deaf? 69

Role-playing Acting in the user’s role forges a deep sense of empathy and highlights challenges that should be considered in the design (148).

Planning the workshop was one thing, but facilitating it was another. We decided to role play what we planned. This role playing method revealed to us how we needed to clearly communicate the goal and direction of our workshop. We simplified the language because most deaf individuals struggle with English reading and writing skills. We then created a “keep in mind” list in order to maintain organization. After preparing a visual agenda for the workshop, we discussed it with Harry prior to the event. His leadership and guidance were key because he held an important role in facilitating the workshop with us.

Agenda for the Visual Voice Workshop 1



Creating Mural - 45 minutes - Introduction of the activity - Showing process/ material/ Prompts - Blue sky idea/ quickly - draw picture, write story or word

Introduction - 5 minutes - Goal of workshop - Explain process/ schedule - Ground rule



Small Group Discussion - 10 minutes - Share ideas and stories to the small group and have a discussion

Large Group Discussion - 20 minutes - Share ideas and stories to the large group and have a discussion

Illustration created by: Yara Safadi, Nidhi Jalwal, Davis Hermann, Lonnie Petersheim, and Charles H. Lee



Visual Voice We named the workshop “Visual Voice.” While the process of creating the mural was meant to spark a conversation between community members, the mural created is meant to be a visual representation of that conversation and of the Deaf community’s unheard voice. In terms of planning, everything was set for the day of the workshop. Our team of 5 designers, Harry and Melissa the interpreter, all acted as facilitators. As Melissa was our only interpreter, it was extremely important for all of us to work together to facilitate and coordinate communicating the tasks to the participants.


We had round tables for the small group sessions and a similar spatial design to the one we observed at the housing workshop. By the time we were set to begin, we learned that flickering the lights is a way to focus everyone’s attention on the person signing or speaking. After welcoming everyone we started working in small groups and walking everyone through the prompts. The information was displayed on a projector and explained. Harry was key in helping us guide the participants through the process. Moving through the prompts, we discovered artistic talents and the stories started to build up slowly from one prompt to the next. Some of the writing was direct and expressive. One participant, Mary, explained how her family has not learned ASL and thus they don’t communicate with her at all. When we went through all the prompts, and we asked them to discuss in groups, they improvised writing a list of “why” they chose certain triangles to discuss.

Design Workshops A participatory design form that consolidates co-design methods into organized and focused sessions where designers and stakeholders work together to have a meaningful experience (62).



“Moving through the prompts, we discovered artistic talents and the stories started to build up slowly from one prompt to the next. Some of the writing was direct and expressive. One participant, Mary, explained how her family has not learned ASL and thus they don’t communicate with her at all.”


Moving to the large group discussion space, each group presented their chosen triangle. At that point, another surprise unfolded as the groups started a spectacular improvisation: they each acted out a scene of two individuals trying to communicate with each other – one deaf and one hearing. Each act expressed the deaf individual’s frustrations when he/she is misunderstood and discriminated against because of his/her deafness. The improvisation led to a larger conversation about personal experiences. They even expressed frustration with modern technologies that don’t take them into consideration. At this point, and nearing the end of the workshop, we pointed out the importance of the conversation and the need for them to come together as a community and advocate for their rights. Harry then explained his advocacy efforts and asked everyone to join him. They all shook their fists in the air as a sign of agreement.

Directed Storytelling A method that allows the gathering of rich stories from stakeholders by using thoughtful prompts to guiding and framing questions in a conversation (68).



PostWorkshop Our design team assembled the mural and carried it over to LRI. The final piece looked like a beautiful quilt of stories. As they were having their final English proficiency class, we presented the Deaf students with the mural that they created. They were very pleased with the outcome, and more so with the workshop and process of creating the mural itself, which was the main purpose. The outcome was meant to be a representational community piece, but the conversation that emerged during the workshop and with the prompts sparking it, was essentially the first step towards a shared goal and understanding.


Although, it’s hard to measure how impactful the conversation was or might be, because after all it lies in their experience, there are indications that it did make an impact. A community decision on where they wanted to hang their mural was done collectively. They also suggested creating a “process� plaque for the mural with images from the workshop, which indicates the impact of the event itself in their memory, and the desire to display their experience to the public. In our final recommendations, we tried to emphasize that the workshop, which sparked a conversation around building a stronger community, should not and was not meant to be a one-time event. Activity based workshops allow for conversations to emerge and for self-expression. More similar events would help in expanding Deaf advocacy not just internally and at LRI but also to the Deaf community in Philadelphia at large.

Participatory Design “Participatory design is a humancentered approach advocating active user and stakeholder engagement throughout all phases of the research and design process, including co-design activities. (128)�


“Activity based workshops allow for conversations to emerge and for self-expression. More similar events would help in expanding Deaf advocacy not just internally and at LRI but also to the Deaf community in Philadelphia at large.�



During the Visual Voice workshop, When we reached the final prompt, which read: what does it mean to be deaf? The participants turned to us and signed: What does it mean to be hearing? 95

This project plays a pivotal role in my career as an designer. I consider it as my introduction and entry point into human centered design. I am very fortunate and grateful for this introduction. Co-designing with the Deaf community has not only taught me the relevance, importance, and value of a human-centered design approach, but has also highlighted what’s lacking in our means of communication as a hearing majority. It was a personal de-familiarization that made me more aware of the world that surrounds me. No wonder my sense of being a person with a disability was the first thing I jotted down when returning to the studio from our tour at LRI. And, when asked by the Deaf “what does it mean to be hearing� I still had no answer. My hope is that people like Mary, Sihn, and Luis, can carry on the conversation after experiencing, contributing and playing a major role in getting it started. Knowing their stories were documented in one format or another should empower others to come forth and participate, advocate and activate their communities. Design facilitates change, but it is when the community is involved in the whole process, that the change becomes most relevant, meaningful, and impactful. Yara Safadi Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



The Design Team

Yara Safadi Charles H. Lee Davis Hermann Nidhi Jalwal Lonnie Petersheim

Works Cited Martin, Bella and Bruce Hanington. Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions. Beverly, MA: Rockport Publishers, 2012.


Designing Deaf Community Engagement