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Title: Sonic inclusion : opposing auditory normalism in design through the lived experiences of d/deaf and disabled people in socially public spaces
Author: Renel, William
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 6117
Awarding Body: Royal College of Art
Current Institution: Royal College of Art
Date of Award: 2019
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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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: K100 Architecture ; L340 Disability in Society ; W290 Design studies not elsewhere classified