Meltem Özten Anay



Developing a human-centered design understanding in built environment-related professions and enabling them to encompass diversity are crucial for the improvement of more inclusive environments. Considering the value of guiding experiences of people with disabilities for more inclusive design practice and increasing the awareness of professionals with disabilities in design and building practice plays a key role in achieving this goal. There is a growing effort to implement inclusive and universal design issues to the educational programs of design and related disciplines for about two decades. Contrary to the developments in the pedagogy of “core” design disciplines, human-centered design perspective seems not to be widespread enough in the education of so-called “peripheral” occupations of design, like architectural drafting, especially in Turkey. Design Thinking (DT) approach, which is defined as a way of thinking, is in fact widely used in the design-related fields. In such a need of human-centered and creative problem solving, the approach seems to provide a potential to raise awareness about user-oriented design in such peripheral occupations like architectural drafting education. Considering the widening use of strategies of DT also in non-design fields, the research out of which this article comes from involves a special adaption of the approach. Departing from the ultimate aim “to raise awareness of hearing-impaired architectural drafting students about user oriented architectural design,” it applies the strategies of the DT to this special case and reports the process and its findings, hence not only providing a special instance of the model but also revealing its potential contribution to peripheral or non-design disciplines.


Since it particularly focuses on understanding of human behavior, provides flexible and holistic tools to investigate such phenomena and since it is based on a systematic and reflective process, the present research was carried out through qualitative research approach and its tools.


Study showed that in relation to hearing-impaired students’ underlined need for getting familiarized with the process of architectural design and focusing on human-centered design approach, present application of Design Thinking strategy worked effectively to provide basic information about architectural design, design process, and related tasks and user needs as well, as part of design process for hearing-impaired architectural drafting students with a certain level of hearing loss and language ability.

Research Limitations/Implications

Since the research was embedded within the existing educational system, data collection and observation processes had to be defined according to these boundaries. Also the students’ level of language abilities and their limited background about their field of study, because that they were first year students were the main limitations of the study. Apart from its aforementioned outcome, the research was a means of expanding the application of the initial DT model, and it could be seen as a contribution to the existing studies concerning the education of the hearing-impaired students. In general, the research illustrated that DT, as a carefully developed approach to be employed particularly for non-design occupations, could also be effectively used to teach design process for disabled design professionals. Consequently, it is thought that it could be applied to the formulation of courses such as; environmental design, design for all, inclusive design, as well as be utilized for students developing empathy with users, familiarizing with observation and interview techniques, and as a means of quick and systematic problem solving sessions.

Practical Implications

As it might be expected the study primarily contributes to the education of the hearing-impaired students. It helped students to develop an understanding of design process as well as develop their professional schemata (i.e. their conceptual vocabulary). As a research it provides a foundational knowledge concerning application of DT strategies in a specific field of study.

Social Implications

By nature, one of the basic problems confronting students with disabilities is to make them an integrated part of the society, from daily life to some specialized situations such as professional life and their education. Researcher strongly believes that this study has had implications as such although it was not primarily involved with such a goal.


As it might be guessed the present study might be considered as a part of and a contribution to a larger research tradition evolving around the Design Thinking approach, i.e. its application and adaptation to different areas and field, and development of the strategy itself. On the other hand, since it adapts and applies DT to a specific case, and an original problem situation, actually a very rarely addressed one. As such, while it might be considered as a special contribution to that specific tradition, at the same time its primary contribution is to the education of the hearing-impaired students, and its pedagogy.


Architectural design, human-centered design, architectural drafting, design thinking, hearing-impaired students

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