Deaf Cairo Urban Acessibility and DeafSpace

Uma Abordagem Fenomenológica à experiência DeafSpace no Cairo

A Fenomelological approach to Cairo embodied DeafSpace experience

When we talk about Space lived experience, driven by hypothetic lines of dialogue that intertwine Deaf Studies and Phenomenology of Perception of Maurice Merleaux-Ponty (1994), we recognize the emergent concept of body’s own spatiality i.e., the ways of being, feeling, and understanding the world from a first-deaf-person perspective. As the author states:

Space is not a container, nor an intrinsic property of an object. Neither is it a construction of intuition. What Merleau-Ponty wants to ultimately show is that space is a pact between the subject and the world, a notion that is only possible on the basis of intentionality. The pact is a synthesis between the subject, as an agent who takes purposeful actions towards the world, and the world, which offers anchorage points of stability and motivates our gearing towards the world. This relation between the world and the subject is what gives rise to the origin of space [1].

(M-Ponty cit in Duvisac , 2014,46)

Similar to M-Ponty, whereas the subjective body gives rise to the concept of Space, Soto [2] (2012, p. 10) considered an example of urban spaces as streets spaces to embody ‘movement, access, and public life, for liveable streets enhance the quality of life’.

The urban space has not only the sum of its three-dimensional characteristics in the organization of urban structural elements, but also the space for interaction, socialization, as well as aesthetic parameters, which are transformed and at the same time transformers of the subjects.

The physical conditions that define the existence of a public place, such as a square, for example, are not sufficient for this place to be considered favorable to social presence and frequency: Since there is no guarantee ‘that the microclimatic conditions would be favorable so, the people would be comfortable interacting with it’ (Giddings et al. 2011, p. 205) [3] and no guarantee it will be considered as an effective urban space in terms of sociocultural activities and aesthetics conditions.

The geometry and geography of the city of Cairo, in the old quarter, differs from the geography and geometry of European cities insofar as there are spaces that bring together social groups, such as mosques, which mobilize several times a day, the groups of believers who gather there. they move, space similar to those of European squares in sociocultural dynamics (ibid,203).

When we talk about “street”, we go directly to the concept of geometry in the sense of its width and length, and that in Old Cairo they had an exact concept of measurement, relative to the proportion width x length, so that the streets could be considered equally social centers that accommodate both dynamic and static activities and determine the spatial identity of Cairo’s historic area.

The length-to-width proportion of a ‘street’ should exceed 3:1, and because of the geometric proportions of its footprint, ‘street’ will be considered as a ‘linear urban space’ (hereinafter, LS). On the other hand, footprints of urban spaces varying between 1:1 and 1:2(Städtebauliches Institut, 1972) will be classified as ‘central urban spaces’ (i.e., the Public Square will be considered geometrically as ‘central spaces’ [4].

Saad,S.(1994)The Visual and Aesthetic Factors affecting Urban Spaces in Cairo

However, the cartography of the city of Cairo in its oldest part underwent changes due to European influences, and the view considered more Darwinian of the urban organization of streets witnessed two derivations in the typology and identity of urban spaces, among which the “streets”: in some areas the original concept associated with the geography, geometry, and aesthetics of the space prevailed and in others we witnessed a recession, and today zones of different types coexist.

According to Saad (2017) urban spaces in contemporary Cairo have lost their genuine local identity:

Generally, diversity might reflect one of two possible meanings; it either reflects urban disorder or it reflects intention. If randomness is the case, the quantitative inventory must imply randomness. In fact, it implies domination of certain spatial characters and recession of others. While dominant spatial elements create visual unity, recessive elements create visual diversity. 

Following the concepts of the same author of ‘wild’ and ‘tamed’ spaces in Old Cairo, we realize that initially the city was built with the intention of distinguishing public from private spaces, but given the lack of urban planning, evident in the documentary sources from the beginning of the 19th century (Raymond 2001) [5], but the city’s major and minor road arteries are now located in close proximity to residential areas and public spaces such as schools and hospitals, with the transition between them being abrupt and poorly regulated. Associated with this recent cartography, the socio-cultural identity of the old city has adapted in an apparently peaceful way. In the imposition of maintaining the functional character of pedestrian and vehicle transit between the different zones (housing and institutional, for example), fast vehicles and people share cramped spaces.

Added to this experience of the space that Saad considers the most “wild”, we find the reason why a DeafSpace study could be developed in “Old Cairo”, within a deaf population, which daily experience the Space to attend school or work place, i.e., the study of embarrassment in relation to accessibility, safety and well-being of deaf subjects and their possible awareness of the greater or lesser inclusive social Space.

Within the Deaf Unit institution (like a micro-ecology space), the DeafSpace as Solvang and Hauland (2014)[6] state, can be explained as “both the supply of technical facilities and the creation of socially inclusive practices are demonstrated when Deaf people meet. The presence of many sign language users changes the visual impression of places. It is therefore a construction of Space or deafening of some urban spaces which transform space in a favorable way for both deaf and hearing people” (ibid,7).

It is a concept that implies transformation and is, at the same time, transforming the dynamics, interactions, safety and well-being of the people who frequent these spaces, more than just from the perspective of accessibility that we know related to Inclusive Design: it’s as cultural and social relevance and impact for Deaf people.

Alongside the central aspect of communicational effectiveness.

Along with the central aspect of communicational effectiveness, the “sensory reach” element, mentions that deaf individuals have a marked environmental awareness, with broad peripheral vision and greater sensitivity to movements around them. Discomfort or insecurity is felt by dorsal experience, which sensorially translates a limited or impossible reach to what is happening in near space. The experience of street-space in Old Cairo can become overwhelming, given the simultaneously dynamic and static nature of the “street”. Sidewalks are often an extension of the commercial space of the store, cart or stand selling vegetables or street food, or even a social space for people to interact, sitting on benches. Pedestrians often use the street (road traffic lane) as a preferential route and this juxtaposition with traffic (cars, motorcycles, tuc-tucs) is quite unpredictable.

The physical experience of the street-space in Old Cairo is, to a large extent, subordinated to the sense of hearing, due to the habit of vehicle drivers in sound signaling of the march, using the horn. In the deaf person, the use of peripheral vision proves to be essential as a perception of the Body in Space, insofar as the sensory stimulus of vision acts in making quick decisions about orientation and movement.

If, according to the principles of DeafSpace, the deaf person should ideally have a wide field of vision, close to 180 degrees, in ancient Cairo and given pedestrian navigation guided by the sound stimulus, the visual-spatial relationship of the deaf it is intensely experienced, becoming a matter of survival.

[1] Duvisac, Dora, “The concept of spatiality in Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Patočka” (2014). Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current. 407.

[2] Soto, M.A., 2012. Pedestrian Areas in Los Angeles: Influence of design features and market area on pedestrian activity. A case study of three commercial strips. Master. University of California, Los Angeles, United States — California.

[3] Giddings, B., Charlton, J., and Horne, M., 2011. Public squares in European city centres. Urban Design International, 16 (3), 202–212.

[4] Saad, S. (2017). The Spatial Identity of Historic Cairo, Part one: Typology, Geometry, and Geographic Distribution. DOI: 10.21625/archive.v1i1.131

Saad, S., 1994. Die Visuellen und Ästhetischen Faktoren, die die Gestaltung der Städtischen Räume beeinflussen, am Beispiel von Kairo[The Visual and Aesthetic Factors affecting Urban Spaces in Cairo]. PhD. Technical University, Vienna.

[5] Raymond, A., 2001. Cairo: City of History. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.

[6] Solvang, Per Koren and Hilde Haualand (2014). Accessibility and diversity – Deaf space in action, in Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research. Vol 16, no 1, 1-13

OpenEdition sugere que esta publicação seja citada da seguinte forma:
Filipa Machado Rodrigues (30 de Dezembro de 2022). Uma Abordagem Fenomenológica à experiência DeafSpace no Cairo. Desenvolvimento Humano Integral. Recuperado em 15 de Julho de 2024 de

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