Down syndrome and building design

a young man with Down syndrome sits at a computer workstation. He is wearing a white shirt and patterned tie. there are other workers at workstations in the background. Down Syndrome and building design.People with Down syndrome sometimes experience space in public and home environments in a different way to others. A study in Belgium of people with Down syndrome and building design revealed some interesting results.

For example, the separation of spaces is not always clear if there is no architectural delineation. Participants showed a preference for brightness, large windows, and illuminated objects and surfaces.

Privacy of space was also important, particularly quiet space for people with Down syndrome. Familiar landmarks and furniture were also important. The discussion section of the paper provides more insights that could help designers consider the intellectual perspectives of users, and not just for people with Down syndrome. The paper also makes links to universal design.

The title of the paper is, “Inclusion of Down Syndrome in Architectural Design: Towards a Methodology“. Authors are Clémintine Schelings and Catherine Elson.

You can download it in PDF (400kb) or in Word (2MB) or open access on the University of Liege website. 

From the abstract

This paper develops an in-situ methodology to help architects insure better inclusion of people with Down syndrome all along all phases of the architectural design process. This methodology first offers architects some design keys in regard of how people with Down syndrome interact with two types of spaces: their personal dwellings and some completely unknown spaces.

The methodology then unfolds towards more pro-active inclusion of the participants thanks to playful expression of their feelings and perceptions. This paper discusses how this methodology relates to inclusive and universal design principles as well as prevalent models of disability in architecture.

Editor’s note:  More recent research on neurodiversity, autism and dementia have similar findings. 


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