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Deaf-Blind Housing Project In Winnipeg, Canada

VIDEO [CC] - Deaf News: Deaf-Blind housing project will be first of its kind in Manitoba, Canada.

CBC WINNIPEG -- 10 suites at Gas Station Arts Centre redevelopment will be designed for Deaf-Blind people. Winnipeg will soon be one of the first cities in Canada to have specialized housing designed for people who are both Deaf and Blind.

Bonnie Heath, executive director of the Resource Centre for Manitobans who are Deaf-Blind, has put down payments on 10 suites in the residential portion of the new Gas Station Arts Centre, which is slated for the corner of River Avenue and Osborne Street.

"We're very excited," Heath said, adding that the need for this kind of housing is great.

"The Deaf-Blind individuals that I'm in contact with in their own homes right now feel isolated and unsafe."

She added, "You have a combination of you can't see and you can't hear; you don't know who's coming into your place. You don't know, for example, one of my Deaf-Blind friends said she wouldn't even know the toilet was running over until the water was at her ankles in the dining room."

Heath works with dozens of Manitobans who are Deaf-Blind - people with a combination of no vision or low vision and hearing that rely on interpreters to communicate.

The apartments will not only bring members of the Deaf-Blind community under one roof, the apartments will be designed with them and for them for safer and easier living, said Heath.

"Sharp edges, you know, things that we take for granted when we can see, getting around corners - those types of things will be avoided."

Winnipeg-based architect Steve Cohlmeyer, whose resume includes The Forks, will tackle the project, which he acknowledges will be a first for him.

"At the level of problem-solving, I think it's really exciting - and exciting because there's a whole service aspect and a kind of integration of a whole group I was unaware of when I first got the call," he said.

Some of the features Cohlmeyer is considering is a tactile approach to design - for example, surfaces that will distinguish between rooms.

"For people who have no sight and zero hearing, we'll certainly want to explore the kinds of things you can help feel your way through a space," he said, adding that for people with partial sight, high-contrast spaces may be important.

"Exaggerated colour difference or dark and light contrast will be a helpful thing to have," he said. "So you can see where a door cabinet is against a light floor as opposed to all-white cabinets and all-white floors."

In the coming months, Cohlmeyer will visit Deaf-Blind clients to "watch how they live" to source his design solutions. He said he is also travelling to Toronto and the United States to visit existing Deaf-Blind housing to learn what works well and what doesn't.

"Even when you're well-acquainted with an environment you can still bump into things, so we want to be watching and learning as much as we can about how we facilitate movement and operation of equipment within the unit itself and how they can move again between the unit and even elevators and an outdoor terrace." Source

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