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Chris Downey, a blind architect in San Francisco, views architecture and design as a multi-sensory experience. He explains his refreshing perspective on TED Talk.

Chris's Tips for Young Builders

More About Chris Downey

"I believe great architecture for the blind and visually impaired is just like any other great architecture, only better. It's a richer experience, involving all the senses." —Chris Downey

Photo of Chris walking, with cane, through some complicated outdoor staircases in a plaza

Christopher Downey, AIA, is an architect, planner, and consultant who lost all sight in 2008. Today, he is dedicated to creating more helpful and enriching environments for the blind and visually impaired.

As one of the few practicing blind architects in the world, Chris has been featured in local, national, and international media stories and speaks regularly about architecture using a multi-sensory approach. He also teaches accessibility and universal design at UC Berkeley and serves on the Board of Directors for the Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco.

He starts each day rowing with the East Bay Rowing Club on the Oakland Estuary before commuting on public transit to his office in San Francisco.

Make a LEGO Plan of Your Room

What You'll Need

LEGO room plan

Getting Started

This activity was created by Chris Downey for Great Expectations.

Chris Downey Reframes Design for the Blind

Sound Is a Design Element, Too

fish in a tank

How do you feel when you eat at a restaurant that plays loud, horrible music? Relaxed or tired?

What do you feel when you hear wind chimes on a porch, or a bubbling aquarium in the dentist's office?

Okay — not even the fish feel relaxed in that place!

Design with a Sense of Smell

scented plug-in

Your sense of smell is located in the same part of your brain that affects emotions, memory, and creativity — wow!

Think about how different smells make you feel. Go to the grocery store with mom or dad and pick out a scented plug-in that calms you. Try it in your bedroom.

Did it work? Did you remember to do your homework?

Ask Your Child: What Is Your Favorite Room in the House?

comfy room

Which floor feels best when you walk through the house barefoot, and why? Where do you like to sit when eating breakfast and where do you like to sit when reading or listening to a story?

Why does one place work better for some things and not as well for others?

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