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Edmonton Highrise Is Designed For The Blind

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A rendering shows what the proposed building will look like. | CNIB
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A proposed Edmonton highrise will not only be visually beautiful but also appeal to one's sense of hearing and touch as well, thanks to the work of an architect who is blind.

On Monday, Edmonton City Council unanimously voted to approve a 35-storey mixed-use tower on Jasper Avenue and 120 Street that will be home to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind's (CNIB) new offices. The building will also include retail spaces and apartments for the blind and those with low vision.

The CNIB is working with U.S.-based architect Chris Downey, who lost his sight after a surgery eight years ago.

"A big part of appropriate design for people who are blind or visually impaired is that's it's multi-sensory," Downey told CBC News.

Downey is a proponent of designing with vision loss in mind. Changing small details like lighting, floor texture, colour and sound in a building can make a huge difference in terms of accessibility.


“The idea that we’re all sort of quote ‘normal’ and all walk around with two legs and have typical standard procedures and see and have all sensory capabilities, that’s a fallacy,” he said to Global News.

The building will feature details like colourful glass fins that will make it easily visible from a distance for people with low sight and audio signals to let elevator passengers know what floor they're on.

“By any measure this is a spectacular building,” Mayor Don Iveson said according to Metro News.

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