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  • Sonic inclusion: opposing auditory normalism in design through the lived experiences of d/deaf and disabled people in socially public spaces

Renel, William, 2019, Thesis, Sonic inclusion: opposing auditory normalism in design through the lived experiences of d/deaf and disabled people in socially public spaces PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

We are all affected by sound and human hearing; these are not niche issues. The
hearing of every citizen diverges continuously under the influence of an abundance
of factors including age, auditory and non-auditory conditions, culture and
profession, as well as the environment we are in and whether that environment has
been designed with our ears in mind. For many, such as those with sight loss or
hearing loss, those with neurological conditions such as Tourettes syndrome or
autism, or those with auditory conditions such as Hyperacusis and Misophonia,
sound, and attitudes towards sound, can dictate whether a public space is inclusive
or exclusive, accessible or non-accessible. Yet sound remains under researched
within Inclusive Design and narrowly represented in access legislation.
The research questions how sound and hearing are typically considered in the design
and management of socially public space and aims to establish a more sonically
equitable approach to Inclusive Design practice - a position in which to think
critically about the societal repercussions of design that privileges a normative ear,
body and mind. The investigation presents a new critical narrative of sound and
social in/exclusion by highlighting how contemporary design has come to prioritise
‘the auditory normate’. This individualist perspective assumes an idealised sonic
citizen and engenders a culture of design driven by good/bad ears, homogenized
sonic interaction and a lack of consideration for the multimodal complexity of human
sonic experience.
The research methodology engages a series of hearing-centred design methods that
chart examples of sonic in/exclusion in public environments foregrounding the lived
experiences of d/Deaf and disabled people in theatres and art centres in London.
Research by the Papworth Trust and Department for Work and Pensions shows that
disabled people have significantly lower rates of attendance at arts and cultural
institutions (Smith, 2017) and that 15% of disabled people experience barriers to
accessing the theatre, cinema or a concert - the second highest exclusionary service
after shopping (DWP, 2015).
A multimodal framework for discourse analysis is adopted to analyse the research
data and to better understand how the lived experiences of d/Deaf and disabled
people, communicated simultaneously through multiple modal channels such as
voluntary and involuntary spoken language, might form an opposition to the
constructed ideals of the auditory normate. Findings show how ‘auditory normalism’
in design prevents d/Deaf and disabled people from being included as valued
members of contemporary society and how a new perspective of sonically inclusive
design might contribute to a more socially and sonically inclusive future.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Architecture > K100 Architecture
Other > Social studies > L300 Sociology > L340 Disability in Society
Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W290 Design studies not elsewhere classified
School or Centre: Research Centres > Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design
Research & Innovation
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2019 14:09
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2019 14:09
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/3957

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