The power of light to change your world for good
Light Notes banner

It’s Disability Month – that means you and me

July is Disability month. So this weeks’ newsletter is all about our differences – and what that means for lighting design. I’m experimenting with more of an ‘article’ format in response to your feedback to the survey -do let me know what you think?

The first of the new interview series will follow in September. 

Have a great week!


Different is the new Normal?

Forbes journalist Nancy Doyle PhD of Genius Within CIC makes a passionate case for neurodiversity to be considered in the celebrations this month in her article – Disability Pride Month: Are Neurominorities Included?. As she points out, the experience of being ‘disabled’ is largely down to the environment. Physical disability is obviously tough but is perhaps relatively straightforward to tackle: level access and wider doorways can mitigate at least part of the problem. Sensory differences demands a little more thought. 

The way that babies and children learn to make sense of information from the outside world can be described as a process of path-making: you begin with the equivalent of a virgin forest. In the first weeks of life, you navigate between two place, wearing a path or making a connection. As you repeat that process, the pathway becomes established – and ultimately becomes the default highway. By the age of two, you have more pathways than you will ever have again in your life. The next few years are a process of ‘tuning and pruning’ to establish the roadmap for the rest of our lives. Those who are not offered the range of sensory inputs in the early years – or for whom that process of pathway-forming is impaired in some way simply do not set up the shortcuts that others do. Joanna Grace explains this so elegantly in her podcast. She also explains how she works with those with sensory processing differences as you would teach someone maths: you begin with those building blocks of meaning – one or many – and then slowly build up to more complex calculations – Sensory Development and Sensory Engagement with Joanna Grace

Extreme contrast sensitivity is one of the most common issues for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder – a phenomenon that has implications for lighting design. Neurophysiological hyperresponsivity to sensory input in autism spectrum disorders. The pupillary response is either more extreme or slower for those with ASD, which contributes to the problem: the opening at the front of the eye simply does not respond fast enough to protect the retina from the painful experience of blinding glare. – Association between pupillary light reflex and sensory behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorders

This means that managing glare is especially important at this time of year when there is so much sunshine around. Internal blinds and curtains are great but we’re not very good at using them – we forget or they break. One solution may be to add fins to the outside of buildings – this study compared different options and found that external horizontal ‘fins’ offered the best balance between glare and access to daylight – Static Shading Optimization for Glare Control and Daylight 

One issue you might not have considered is how colour vision deficiency – another surprisingly common yet hidden processing difference that affects up to one in 12 men and one in 200 women – can affect your ability to enjoy sports. Perhaps that should be recognised as a special educational need too? – Should Colour Vision Deficiency Be a Recognized Special Education Need (SEN)?

The technology is there to help us all to thrive – including lighting of course. But the starting point surely has to be a respect for – and even celebration of – our special needs and gifts.

Get in touch!