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Australia's first purpose-built office space designed by the Deaf for the Deaf sets a new benchmark

The new head office of Expression Australia, the nation’s leading Deaf and hard of hearing community organisation is the first of it’s kind in Australia. The purpose co-designed work place for Deaf and hard of hearing is the benchmark for future social inclusion and environmentally and culturally safe projects.

Occupying the 6th floor at 54 Wellington Street Collingwood, the internal design and construction took two years to complete.

Every detail has been considered and was the result of extensive consultation with Deaf and hard of hearing staff and the wider Deaf community.

Key elements include:

  • Wide hallways to allow two people to walk side by side and communicate using Auslan.

  • Clear lines of sight throughout the building.

  • Curved walls.

  • Natural and artificial light that is friendly to vision

  • Horseshoe reception area with seating visually pointing toward entrances.

  • Light switches on outside of rooms to allow for ‘Deaf knocking’.

  • Open plan design to facilitate visual communication.

  • Break out areas designed with circular features to allow group discussions in Auslan.

Officially opening today, Assistant Director at the Disability Royal Commission Alex Jones says the new office models the importance of embedding the principles of universal and inclusive designs into the creation of products, services, systems and spaces.

“These concepts were central to the recent Royal Commission Public hearing 31: 'Vision of an inclusive Australia'. It is phenomenal to see how spaces are evolving to be more accessible, culturally appropriate and safe for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people, and people with disability more broadly."

Current Australian Building Standards do not mandate or incorporate Deaf Space requirements. Marchese Partners Senior Interior Designer Sian Neame-Smith - a deaf designer says the project was a unique opportunity to push the boundaries and set a new standard in integrating people with diverse abilities into the community. “The primary goal of the building code is written to enable access to buildings and within the building itself for people with disability. Deaf Space Principles go beyond the ability to access a space to enable people to function in a space with emphasis on emotional and physical well-being. A Deaf and hard of hearing experience in the built environment is unique, this also highlights the importance of an inclusive approach in the design process.”

The new home of Expression Australia also heralds a new era for the oldest Deaf Society in Australia as it welcomes its first Deaf Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Adam. Outgoing CEO Nicky Long says she is immensely proud to have been at the forefront of creating a space that will continue to empower the Deaf community. “For over 138 years the need for culturally safe spaces has been a strength in the connection of the Deaf community. We have a bespoke environment for over 100 Deaf staff supporting our clients that is free from discrimination and stigma. Ms Adam plans to strengthen this with the next goal of a Deaf community hub in partnership with others in the sector”.

The 6-star, green star building is a world leader in environmentally sustainable building practices. Expression Australia is among a curated list of organisations at 54 Wellington Street that are socially and environmentally focused.

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