Event: NeMLA Conference
DeafSpace is a term that is currently used only in reference to architecture, specifically “built environments that best suit the needs of Deaf people” (https://www.gallaudet.edu/campus-design-and-planning/deafspace). It is a concept largely devised by architect Hansel Bauman, who founded the DeafSpace Project (DSP) with Gallaudet University’s ASL Deaf Studies Department in 2005. There are set DeafSpace Guidelines, which include “more than 150 different architectural elements that should be taken into account when constructing spaces to be used by Deaf people. These elements fall into five categories: sensory reach; space and proximity; mobility and proximity; light and color; and acoustics” (“What is DeafSpace?” n.d.).
I’d like to propose a panel that expands the parameters of DeafSpace beyond architectural design, one that broadens the project to ask interesting questions about other kinds of space and how these spaces intersect: questions like: Do deaf people use linguistic and personal space in different ways? What kinds of spaces do deaf people occupy in the digital sphere? What kinds of spaces to deaf people occupy geographically? (Mary Beth Kitzel, a specialist in deaf geographies, argued in a personal email to me that “signing peoples, lacking a physical homeland and navigating each day through an environment of restricted/limited access to the ‘local’ spoken language, are transnational beings, perhaps even supranational.” There is substantial anecdotal evidence, she claims, “that deaf people, no matter location of origin, formulate bonds with other deaf people that doesn’t happen the same way for or with hearing people”). Other questions could involve how deaf people employ sign languages in global media – What are the conventions of digital signing spaces?
Some overarching questions regarding transnational deaf spaces would be: What can we learn from a look at this? How do these deaf spaces and changes in deafspace affect both deaf and hearing language and cultures?