Jade Amber Ragoschke: Deafness, architecture, and accessibility

Episode summary

Jade Amber Ragoschke (250)
Jade Amber Ragoschke

While it’s not immediately apparent that Jade Amber Ragoshke is unilaterally deaf, it is a defining factor for her life and work. She shares her experiences with deafness, learning about it, and adapting to it. Jade discusses architecture and her ongoing research into the connections between architecture, parkour, and accessibility. She reflects on disability, designing for all people, and creating more inclusive environments in all communities.

Jade Amber Ragoschke is an architect, parkour practitioner, and the vice president of World Deaf Architecture. Her involvement in parkour led to her interest and eventual career in architecture. After finding her place in the Deaf community, she discovered a new perspective and approach to architecture that is more inclusive, empathetic, and accessible to everyone. Jade specializes in accessible design for people with disabilities and provides architectural consultation to parkour communities. She advocates for inclusive play spaces for all ages and is researching the intersections between architecture, parkour, and accessibility.

Highlight [0:00]

Jade (00:00:07):
I mean, personally for me, I think it would be really great if Parkour could reach into the Deaf communities, because they’re really tight-knit. And, I think it’d be really interesting to see how Parkour would be affected by incorporating Deaf people and their experiences into movement, because a lot of it is really relied on hearing our landings and all that stuff. It’s there’s this auditory element, but there’s a lot of things that you can gain by removing a sense. I mean, that’s why we have all these different types of movement workshops and games.

Craig (00:00:36):
Yeah. Eyes closed drills, or right, silent training.

Jade (00:00:40):
Exactly. It’s like when you remove a certain element from your training, it forces you to rely on other parts of your senses.

Introduction [0:49]

Deafness [2:25]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Story of bonding over hearing loss at Art of Retreat
  • Jade’s experience of hearing loss, specifics of her hearing and deafness
  • Hearing aides, adaptations to deafness, lip reading
  • Parrot aside

Architecture [12:29]

Craig (00:18:38):
What, what sort of scale calls to you?

Jade (00:18:41):
So the scale that I’m interested in is the human scale of architecture, because my specialty is within accessibility. And so when it comes to accessibility, it’s really about the personal experience in design and how people really feel within a space and utilize that space.

Craig (00:19:02):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jade (00:19:03):
A lot of people can look at the larger scale of things and that’s important too, but I think a lot of architects kind of need to shift their focus towards the personal experience of a space. Because there was, “oh, it looks pretty,” but how does it feel? So I’m really more interested in the sensory experience of a space not just what it looks like, but what does it sound like? You know, what are the tactile inputs that you’re getting when you’re in that space? And so I think that the small scales, when I’m interested in, not to the point where it’s like, how do I put these two things together, but just rooms and different sized spaces.

Continue reading…

Craig (00:19:45):
I read an article you’re like, I’m like, oh, if anybody would know how to feel this, it’d be you. I read an article about psychoactive spaces. So when I first read the article, I was like, is this cargo cult woo-woo? But after I read it a couple more times, and then I’m like, no, this is actually just over my head. The, and I don’t remember specifically what website it’s on, but it was published in a journal and then they put it up on website, hey, we’ll put it in the episode notes. But the point of the article was that there are certain things that you can experience. So like learning, for example, or love, or like an exchange of feeling with your mom or whatever, which changed the way that you actually think. These are psychoactive experiences. And part of it is, I don’t quite have the language to hang on this idea.

Jade (00:20:36):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Craig (00:20:37):
So the article was about spaces being psychoactive. So everybody knows about silisyum and all the drugs are a very common thing to talk about these days where people are talking about, I want to change the way my brain works by taking this mind altering drugs so I can have a new experience.

Jade (00:20:53):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Craig (00:20:54):
And then restart. Those are psychedelics. Those are psychoactive. So I read this article about psychoactive space and the article is like 20 years old or something. And I was just like, oh, because we all have a, well with those people who move, we all have this feeling that we get and a lot of times, it’s [inaudible 00:21:12] . Like it’s I don’t know how to describe it-

Jade (00:21:14):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Craig (00:21:14):
…but we want to engage with the space. And you’re talking about literally architecting spaces with that in mind. And I’m wondering, have you ever well, a thought about, or like, you’re just looking at me like I’m weird or if you have thought about it, have you ever looked into how the spaces actually affect psychology of people in them? Beyond this one’s calming or this one’s exciting or this one, yeah don’t do that they crushed themselves on the stairwells kind of thing-

Jade (00:21:42):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Craig (00:21:43):
…but I’ve never really looked into, have you ever actually looked into the psychology aspects of how architecture affects us?

Jade (00:21:48):
Yeah. Going through architecture school, we do look into how a space, not necessarily to the scientific parts, but we have an understanding of how spaces affect people based on the coloring and the sizes of the spaces. How certain spaces evoke different emotions and how you have to keep that in mind when you’re designing a courthouse. Maybe you shouldn’t design a courthouse in bright pink, certain things like that. Certain spaces have to have certain types. Exactly. It’s like you don’t want to, you have to design a space appropriate to its use.

Craig (00:22:33):
[inaudible 00:22:33] the jury room is red.

Jade (00:22:36):
I mean, I feel like emotionally, it would probably feel like red is an appropriate color. It’s just like warning: there’s a lot of really intense stuff here. But yeah, you have to design space that is appropriate to its use and you have to understand, what is the mood and what is the environment of the space? Like when, I’ll use schools for an example, just because I am very involved with schools there’s a lot of different like spaces in there, like science rooms.

Jade (00:23:03):
There’s a lot of different spaces in there, science rooms, culinary classrooms, or regular classroom, libraries, and each space has a different environment and each environment affects you differently psychologically. So, even though we’re not really super focused on the specific science behind it, we know what this space is supposed to feel like and what type of environment we’re trying to invoke. And so, we do a lot of research and what certain things are needed in order to provide a specific feeling in that space. And, inaccessible design, too. A lot of people think of, “Oh, ADA”, which is the American Disabilities Act, and so they say ADA design and that’s not just the only way to design for accessibility. Just because it’s really just a bunch of rules that you have to follow and check the box and that’s it.

Jade (00:23:55):
But there’s also this thing called multisensory design. And that was what I was tapping into before about thinking about how does the space look, how does it sound like. Basically, how does the space impact your different senses? And then when you put all those senses together, how does that make you feel? And I think that really understanding a space like that is really important. While it’s not quite like the psycho architecture thing that the article was talking about, but it’s still similar to that because it’s trying to induce an understanding of how people are feeling in that space.

Architecture and art connections [24:36]

Art [28:31]

“I think if I were to, I think after this conversation that we've had about art, I think that what art really is, is breaking the boundaries of the standard. Because if you look at Van Gogh, for example, he had, the reason why he became famous was because his paint strokes became more broad and his artwork wasn't super technical and highly realistic. It was more of the essence of what he was painting, not so much like every little detail. And that was the first time anyone had ever done that. So I think the hyper realistic is also art, but the other thing too is trying to challenge what art is and that's what the bricks are doing. So I'm mad that that's considered art, but at the same time, it is art because of the fact that it's really challenging the notion of what art is.”

Jade Amber Ragoschke
“So many times architects are like, oh yeah, we're going to design it. And people are going to do XYZ thing. And only that, and then it's like, that's not what happens majority of the time. It's like, you're, okay, this person is going to walk in and they're going to make a right. And then there's going to be this room and they're going to have this experience. And architects, like to really build out exactly what happens and then design the space because they want to create experiences. But then, you can never predict what someone's going to do. People can do the craziest things. That's the thing I love about Parkour and architecture too. It's because in Parkour, you can access spaces that you never would be able to access otherwise. I think that sometimes architects get frustrated because it's like, well, you weren't supposed to be there, but you're there now. And that was not something that we had to think about until you decided to climb up on this roof and people weren't just supposed to just stand on that roof or something. And so it's pretty funny when that happens, but we can't predict every single thing.”

Jade Amber Ragoschke

Connections and intersections [47:48]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Parkour, Architecture, disability/accessibility, searching for the connection points
  • Best parkour spots, accessible spaces, creativity
  • Stair-ramps, combining accessibility creatively; creating more options for everyone
  • Continuing research in connections, thought process
  • Challenges of disability, tools to accommodate it rather than ignore it
  • Sign language, lip reading, different communication

Jade (00:48:03):
When it comes to things that I want to talk about, I have this trifecta of topics that I’m really focusing on in my research, and I’m trying to find the intersections between all three and how they relate to each other. And the first one is parkour. The second one is architecture and the last one is disability. And they seem really arbitrary when you talk to anyone else about it, but they’re all things that relate to my life, and I have experiences in.

Craig (00:48:32):
Those are not arbitrary. Those make perfect sense for you to be interested in those. That’s awesome.

Jade (00:48:38):
Yeah. So, they all relate to me and I have different experiences with each and as I’ve dived into parkour and architecture, and I just have my deaf experience, I don’t dive into that. But I’ve started noticing interesting relationships and I’m like, what else is there between all of them? So, I haven’t quite figured out what those relationships are, but I’ve started noticing little tidbits. An interesting one is, I specialize in accessible design and something that I’ve discovered is that spaces designed for people with disabilities are actually some of the best parkour spots. Because they have ramps and handrails and all the things that people would want to do to practice vaults and precisions. And, I’ve noticed that people like to really gather around those similar spaces. And so I don’t know what that all means yet, but I think it’s really interesting that, this space that’s meant for accessibility allows for more…not allows, but it drives people to generate more creative ideas of how to use that space, as opposed to spaces that are just designed for standard life.

Continue reading…

Craig (00:49:51):
Yeah, we can make it so it’s accessible and that makes it better. It’s one plus one is three, not two.

Jade (00:49:58):
Right, my true mantra of accessible design is it’s about making a space that makes people comfortable, and it makes a space that everyone can access and experience and enjoy and do what they want to do. And so, all spaces are designed specifically for accessibility, but when you design for accessibility, it ends up being a better space for everybody else. And so I’ve noticed that with parkour as well, we’re like, oh my God, there’s these handrails, and there’s this ramp, and we can do all these cool moves, and oh, look at this catback.

Craig (00:50:34):
Somebody built this just for me. In my head, I have an image, and I don’t even know where in the world it’s from, of…Start with a long flight of stairs, a two long flight, three, four stories, but long outdoor stairs. You know, the long tread? And then they cut in a handicap-sloped ramp. And when you stand back, actually, it’s really hard to see the ramp because the ramp is running across the stairs.

Jade (00:51:05):
Oh, I know what you’re talking about.

Craig (00:51:06):
So, for everybody going the route they’re going to be like what in the…? Imagine a normal flight of stairs, everybody, we’re all walking 12, 14 people. We’re all walking up the stairs. And at the top we get to the 13th step and there’s a landing and then things get flat. And then we walk a little bit and then there’s more stairs. You’ll find this, like in front of the Philadelphia art museum, that’s a very common thing.

Craig (00:51:23):
And there’s some sort of human engineering thing where like, if you don’t do that, people tend to pick up speed and they makes crushes and people fall on blah, blah, blah. Well, the thing that I’m envisioning is if you pictured that landing, just imagine that it was sloped so that the people walking up on the far right. Went six steps. And the walking people walking up the far left, went 20 steps before they encountered the landing. Well, that means you could go to the right end of the landing and go across the space, no stairs, just along the ramp. And then it, the ramp cuts back the other way. So you can basically roll a hand truck with stuff on it or your wheelchair, or you roll up this whole thing.

Craig (00:51:58):
But I think I seen pictures and videos of people who walked down it who don’t realize it’s meant to be an accessibility ramp. Cause if you walk down into, in a straight line, it’s like, step, step, step, step, step, flat landing. Right. I mean, it’s sloped to the left Norris and it, it actually it’s, this is exactly the kind of stairway design that we took us a while, but, you need to have landings in there, people or things happen, but you know, you made the landing slope and bam, it’s an accessible ramp. So that, that sprung to mind as like a, ooh, can I talk one of those out loud?

Jade (00:52:30):
There’s this thing that I’ve seen photos of on the internet and it’s called a stramp, it’s a ramp and stairs and stairs combined into one. And it’s basically what you’re saying. It’s a whole bunch of stairs, but there’s a ramp just zigzagging all the way up to the top. And it’s an interesting attempt to make a space that is not normally accessible, also accessible. And I think it’s a really cool design. The interesting thing about it though, is it’s not considered accessible based on ADA requirements because the requirements are very strict on what is defined as a ramp. So, it really makes it difficult to start getting creative with certain things for accessibility, because it’s so constrained. And I mean, they’re there for a reason, a lot of it is safety related, but it’s like, how can we work with the ADA and then do more to have spaces that are more integrated for accessibility in our designs, because there’s only really three ways.

Jade (00:53:36):
Accessibility is really about getting from point A to point B very much like parkour, and how do we do that? And, there’s three different ways to really get from one elevation to another. And it’s usually by taking stairs, going on a ramp or having some sort of hydraulic system or their lift or an elevator or something like that. And, you know, but then there’s this fourth part, which is parkour, which is an entirely unexpected and an entirely unexpected facet of how do we get from one elevation to another that people just don’t necessarily take into consideration.

Jade (00:54:15):
But when we do parkour, it’s like, oh yeah, this is a no brainer. We’re just going to, precision from here and then do a cat leap over there and then balance on this thing. And then we’ve made it we’re at the top. And, there’s all these different possibilities that are opened up to us. And I think that that’s really fascinating. And I wonder if there’s ways to take the applications of parkour and then bring it into the accessibility world to somehow…not saying that we should make everyone do parkour to get from one place to another for accessibility, but just, how do we take those elements? And somehow have more options to provide elevation changes.

Craig (00:54:55):
I see where you’re going. Earlier, when you mentioned that well-designed spaces, that are accessible by a wide range of move of movement abilities, like normal people, normal people. I almost said muggles. Can’t call them muggles. The normal people are not muggles. The normal people’s movement ranges. And then we said, it seems when the spaces are well-designed, they’re really good for parkour. And my first thought was, yeah, for me, it’s always been, I see a line. I mean, my lines may have curves in them, but I see a line through a space, which is clearly not what the original creator was thinking, because my line goes over the railing and then up the wall. And that’s a different way to go through the space. So when you were just saying now about ways to change elevation, I was like, yeah, a lot of the really cool parkour I’ve done have been in places where, well, there’s no reason I couldn’t go up or down it, but it requires a bit of pulling and pushing and jumping and climbing or whatever.

Craig (00:55:50):
It wouldn’t take much to encourage movement. Okay, there’s the really easy way you can, I have a delivery I’m pulling a hand truck. Okay. Go up the ramp. Okay. Or the normal way is most people go up these stairs. We can handle a lot more people if we go up the stairs or there’s an elevator over here too, or you can go this way over here, where you climb up the column and then go across the thing and it’s basically safe, but the invitation is there for, if you want to play on the hard mode, you can go that way.

Craig (00:56:17):
And that’d be an interesting, I don’t know that I’ve ever, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a space where it was really clear that they were, I mean, we’ve all seen play spaces. You’re clearly in a space where yeah. You’re supposed to be playing in physically. Okay. Not those, I mean, I’d never been to the front of a department store and it was clear that, these are meant to be like stadium stairs. The steps are 28 inches. And they’re well, that’s not, I mean, yeah. We can go up that I’ve never seen a space like that where the invitation was to really try the hard way.

Jade (00:56:48):
Yeah. And, I haven’t quite figured out what all of this means yet in terms of architecture and accessibility and parkour, but, there’s some interesting relationships and I want to know more of, how can wen take certain concepts from one thing and then apply it to the other. And then what does that look like? It’s highly conceptual right now, but it could be something that could be developed to provide more accessible spaces, or understand why spaces are great for parkour.

Accessibility and parkour [1:03:45]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Experience of Parkour community
  • Struggles with communication, isolation through college
  • College experiences with accommodation, led to her interest accessible design
  • Her introduction to the deaf community, shared experiences
  • World Deaf Architecture (WDA)
  • Inclusion and accessibility in the parkour community
  • Understanding others’ culture and experiences
  • Accessibility and adapting to the environment; Bagel quest video
  • Story of blind Aikido student, just asking for people’s needs
“I see a lot of people teaching people with disabilities, but I think understanding their culture and where they come from is also really important. So that can be incorporated into parkour. Except parkour is ever-growing. And I think it's constantly being redefined based on people's experiences and how they add what they know to their movement. Cause when you see people really learning or not learning them, they're doing new movements in parkour videos. It's because they're taking something that they know and is comfortable with themselves and applying it to parkour. And that's where the creativity comes from a lot of the times, I think. So, I think that there's a lot to gain.”

Jade Amber Ragoschke

Jade (01:03:44):
Yeah, I have so many things. So, I think I talked about the architecture, theory with parkour, architecture, and accessibility. And I’m still trying to figure that out. I think when I want to talk more about now is, deafness with me and my relationship with parkour, and some things that I’m seeing there, because there’s been a lot of conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion, all that stuff. But just for some background, when it came to discovering my deafness and growing up with my experience, being hard of hearing and not being part of a deaf community, part of why the parkour community was so important was because I didn’t have a space where there was a community. And the parkour community was really the first time I experienced this gathering of people that, where we were all close-knit, and we were doing the same thing. It was really great.

Jade (01:04:42):
The Chicago parkour community really became my family during a huge transitional time in my life. And so, that’s why parkour became so profound for me in the beginning. And as I got older, I started having a lot of issues with communicating with people. And I was like, man, am I just really stupid or something? Why don’t people want to talk to me? Or, why do people not really interact with me? And I had just didn’t understand, is it me? Am I having an issue? And then in, in college, in my second or third semester of college, I basically started a two-year period of social isolation, basically. Not really interacting or talking to anyone.

Craig (01:05:36):
Why? Why?

Continue reading…

Jade (01:05:37):
And I was just like, what is happening? I didn’t understand what was going on. And architecture school was hard. And I understand that you’re busy doing work all the time.

Craig (01:05:48):
I had a roommate who was an architecture student. That’s an understatement.

Jade (01:05:51):
Yeah, for sure. But I was just like, what is happening? And I would talk to professors, my thing is I’ll go up to a professor in the beginning of the class and I’ll be like, hey, just letting you know, I can’t hear to my right ear. I may need you to repeat yourself every once in a while. And sometimes I have issues with hearing when an assignment is being told to us, and can you just be accommodating to that? And I’ve had professors, some professors usually are really great, and they’re just like, okay, thank you for letting me know.

Jade (01:06:20):
But others are like, oh, well, if you’re failing later on this semester, don’t use that as an excuse. And I’m like, what?

Craig (01:06:27):
I just wanted you to write it on the board, bro.

Jade (01:06:29):
Yeah, I was like, I want you to repeat yourself. I wasn’t trying to get all intense here. But I was like, whoa, what is up with that? I didn’t understand. And so this is a very long story, but the next part is, I had a professor who basically didn’t understand that I had hearing problems, even though I told them, hey, I’m hard of hearing in my right ear. And I just need you to repeat yourself. You just didn’t understand what that meant. So I was having issues with communicating with him.

Jade (01:07:06):
So he would sometimes change the location of the class, but only tell the class. And then I didn’t hear it. So I’m just sitting in the classroom being like, where is everyone else?

Craig (01:07:15):
That’s nice.

Jade (01:07:15):
And no one told me, and then I would show up late to class and he’s like, oh, I see. You’re really late. Clearly, you’re really dedicated to this, practice and I, and then he’d be like, everyone, do you see Jade here? This is what a bad student looks like.

Craig (01:07:29):
Oh, thank you! Nice!

Jade (01:07:29):
Because she’s not showing up on time, so she’s not taking it seriously. And so how I got into accessible design was because of this moment, because I just got so fed up with this guy. And I was like, we were designing a library for that class. And I was like, well, I’ll design a library for deaf and hard of hearing people, so that he can understand what it’s like to be deaf and hard of hearing. And so he wouldn’t be, cause having the conversation, doesn’t always connect with people.

Craig (01:07:58):
But when if you speak architecture to him, maybe he’ll get it. Yeah.

Jade (01:08:01):
Right. So I just started telling him, this is what deaf and hard of hearing people need in order to have an inclusive environment that’s comfortable and inducive to learning and understanding of space. So cause libraries, aren’t just for reading books, it’s also about researching and finding knowledge and having an environment where you can just learn things. And so it’s very similar to what I was doing in college. I was like, this is a perfect opportunity to show my professor, what I need in order to have a good space to be a student. And, but as I was doing that research, I discovered the deaf community. Cause I didn’t know about it at all. And I’m like, I don’t know, in my early twenties at this point.

Jade (01:08:56):
Oh no, I just gave away how old I was…I’m joking.

Craig (01:09:01):
I just went, I had never thought about that either. And I am not in my early twenties.

Craig (01:09:03):
… I just went, “I had never thought about that either and I am not in my early twenties.”

Jade (01:09:06):
And this was a very interesting moment for me because I just discovered the deaf community, I didn’t know it existed, and I was opened up to a whole world of other people who had similar experiences because-

Craig (01:09:17):
Okay, here I’m like… Psych, you owe me a beer.

Jade (01:09:26):
And it was very profound, because I never really knew deaf people. I never talked to anyone who understood what my experience was like. So I was like, “Oh, all of these issues that I thought I’m not smart enough was just people not understanding my disability.” And I realized that it was a really big deal because it validated a lot of things about myself, like, “Oh, I’m not stupid.” Or it’s not that I don’t understand something, it’s just that people don’t understand that I’m not hearing a certain piece of information to connect whatever thing I’m trying to learn. And so, that was a really big deal. And basically, at the end of the semester, this professor was like, “Hey everyone, this is Jade, she’s about to present her project. By the way, she’s hard of hearing, so if she needs you to repeat yourselves, please do so. And if she has all these other accommodations, please accommodate those things.” Unprompted.

Jade (01:10:28):
And that was really interesting for me because it’s not that this guy was trying to be a terrible person and not accommodate me, he just didn’t understand what I needed to have the access to the environment that would require me to learn and follow along with everyone else. Because when everyone is just hearing the same thing, it’s like, “Oh okay, Jade must be hearing that too.” But how are they going to know that I’m missing things? And I can’t tell them that I’m missing information because I’m clearly missing the information.

Billboard for the world [1:29:45]

3 words [1:30:09]

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Craig (01:30:08):
And of course, the final question, three words to describe your practice.

Jade (01:30:12):
So the three words that I would use to describe my practice would be “adaptability”, because you always have to adapt to your environment and the things that life throws at you. And then the second one would be “understandings”, because you always have to understand everyone’s experiences. Everyone’s going to have different experiences in you. And I think really seeing what they are is important. And then the last one, and I don’t know why, but I want to say it would be “gentle”. I think that the world is… There’s so many things that could be harsh in the world, but I think if we could be a little bit more gentle, that would be great. Just taking things more at a gentle pace. And also because I’m taking homage back to when I used to do judo and judo is the gentle way. So those would be my three words.

Craig (01:31:03):
Outstanding. Yeah. Those are three great words. It never ceases to amaze me. The awesomeness that people come up with. When I asked them for three words to describe their practice, they come up with three things that invariably relate back to what they’ve been talking about. And, yeah. Awesome. Thank you very much.