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Sheltered Workshops

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Sheltered Workshops for the Blind

blind-workers2

Following graduation nand a brief spell with my old architectural firm in Manchester, I moved to London to work with Christopher Alexander and Barry Poyner who were developing a design programming tool called Relational Theory - later to be called A pattern Language. I worked for what was then the Ministry of Public Building and Works (later to become the Department of the Environment) as a research and development programmer. Among the projects I was involved with were:

  • A  Ministry study of the availability and suitability of office and conference space in Central London
  • Research into the design of Prison Workshops to reduce recidivism

  • An analysis of behavioural conflict and safety in public housing
  • The design of office furniture for use in Burolandschaft office planning.

  • Sheltered Workshops for the Blind

These projects were on the cutting edge of Design Research and Design Methods and were later to feature in presentations at the Portsmouth Symposium on Design Methods in Architecture  and the Design Methods Group Conference at MIT in the USA - where the Environmental desigh research Association (EDRA) was conceived. In this latter project, I worked as a supervising tutor to Neville Longbone and Steven Mendes, who were completing their final year th the Kingston Polytechnic. The project involved detailed analysis of the problems of mobility encountered by the blind, and their ways of adapting to the environment. This was followed by the development of a programme for sheltered workshops in which the aim was for the blind to have total independent mobility. One of the more significajnt aspects of the study was the way in which research was translated directly into planning and organisational reality. This was particularly the case with respect to the mobility of blind workers - a key factor in their struggle for independence. For instance, rthe need of blind subjects to have a continual reference in their mobility - what we called a "physical form cue" - was directly identified from behavioural analysis (below).
 
blind-workers-rope   walking-workers
            Workers using a rope                 Workers using the carpet edge
 
esearch into the degree to which blind subject deviated from a direct path over distance, and the relationship of this deviance to the speed of movement (see below) was translated
 
blind-deviation   form-cue2
Deviation research                                           Form-Cue Pattern        
 
The patrterns derived from this analysis suggested that there ought to be a continuous form cue within 15 feet of any place in the workshop. (above right). Similarly, an analysis of the importance of binaural differences (the different levels of sound arriving at each ear as a major factor in sound-location) suggested that the "normal" organisation of workplace positioning (below) - where the worker is approiached from behind - was problematic, especially in workshops where bacvkground work noises were present. 
 
blind-workers2
Typical workshop organisation
 

Instead, the study proposed that workshops should be organised so that workers cwould always be approached from at right angles to the facing position. (below left)  This translated into an overall workshop layout that was systematically arranged to facilitate orientation and mobility (below right)
                                                    
workplace-approach     blind-workshop-synth2.small     
Workplace Orientation                                 Workspace synthesis  
Click images to enlarge     
 
These workplace location patterns were then combined to develop an overall workshop layout6 (below left)i. Similar research that focussed on the safety of workers at the entrance to the workshops, the ease of finding the entrance, the immedate accessibility of parking etc. led to the organisation of a conflict-free entrance arrangement (below right).
 
workshop-layout     blind-workshop-synth.small
Workplace Layout                                Entrance and parking        
                                                    click on image to enlarge
 

 These sub-syntheses of patterns were then cmined to produce a prototypical workshop layout covering every aspect of safety, mobility, orientation etc.

 blind0-workshops

Final generic organisational development proposal for sheltered workshop 

click on image to enlarge

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