top of page


natural light as a driver for circulation for visually impaired users

Spring 2015 | Bronx, NY

Hydro Fictions: About

To read more about this thesis, click here.

There has been a recent trend in designing facade systems where meeting the needs of sustainability was the primary concern.
However, it is this necessity to meet sustainability standards that has neglected the thought of complete accessibility.
Regardless of the ongoing research by merging computational design technologies with user experience to create high-end
technological systems, there is still not much being done for individuals with physical disabilities. It is true that with each
passing year, there are multiple attempts at designing highly accessibly buildings. There does seem to be a deficiency in
attempting to accommodate design for those with a lack of vision.


Blindness is a somewhat elastic term to describe a wide range of visual limitations. The functionally blind, for example, cannot see not well enough to get by without significantly altering their lives, such as by reading braille or listening to books on tape. Legal blindness is defined as falling short of the statuatory standard of visual acuity, i.e. - 20/200 vision in most of the United States of America (National Federation of the Blind).

Partial vision loss varies from person to person. Cataract sufferers experience cloudy or fuzzy images and struggle to see shapes, whereas someone with a macular degeneration might retain normal peripheral vision, but gradually lose central vision. A diabetic’s visual problems tend to manifest as shadows and blurring; glaucoma sufferers might live with haziness and tunnel vision (Barrier-Free Planning).

All of these disorders permit some level of sight or light perception. Total blindness, also known as NLP (No Light Perception) is reserved for those who lack even these limited abilities; in fact, they see nothing at all. Nevertheless, recent research has revealed that, at least in some cases, even the totally blind might be able to perceive light non-visually. The range of vision for the visually impaired is infinite depending on the individual . “Blind” is often misunderstood as applying only to persons having zero vision. Although that holds true for the totally blind, they represent the smallest percentage (approximately 10%) of “Blind,”. There are four widely accepted classifications, developed for educational purposes, each covering a wide range of visual impairment: partially sighted, low vision, legally blind, and totally blind. Although the sense of vision is limited in all blind persons, and non-existent in a small percentage, it is still an important tool which must be understood when designing for the visually impaired.

Hydro Fictions: ProGallery_Widget

The senses provide a framework as piece marks to larger spatial constructions. The primary difference between sighted and visually impaired individuals is how they conceive space. Sighted individuals immediately comprehend the whole then deconstruct into components (Fig 3.3). With an inverse perceptional process the visually impaired first comprehend the components then mentally construct and conceptualize the whole (Fig. 3.4) (McMahon, 9). This ability to observe, feel and mentally construct constituents to a whole can be implemented into some of the novel programs added into the program I deem applicable.


Floor Plan

Skylight Plan

Light and Shadow Plan


To read more about this thesis, click here.

bottom of page