A safe space in a neurotypical world

Posted on

It is estimated that 1 out of 7 of the UK population are neurodivergent – that’s almost 15%*. A high percentage of people with neurodivergence are unemployed**. We need more solutions to make learning and workplaces more inclusive.

Angharad Davies’ designs are just that. Her MSc Computational Architecture final year project is a desk-based modular screen, designed to address neurodiversity in the workplace.

She’s also designed the Joey Pod. The calming pod is a solution for schools, hospitals, and public spaces. It’s a safe space for someone to retreat to, before experiencing sensory overloading.   

Digital drawing - design for sensory pod
Digital design drawing for Joey Pod

Designing for neurodiversity

Named after Angharad’s son Joey, the idea for the pod was born during the second year of her BSc(Hons) Architecture course, when Joey received an autism diagnosis. That diagnosis changed Angharad’s whole perception of architecture.

“I realised his outbursts were due to his surroundings. In my final project, I reached out to the autism community and realised I wasn’t the only person who felt isolated due to poor building design and a lack of understanding of autism.”

Angharad said.

There has been a lot of research about separate Special Educational Needs (SEN) rooms at schools, but Angharad’s concept offers the child a pod in the corner of a room – like a den.  The pod uses audio-visual effects and provides a ‘safe zone’ for people with sensory processing problems.

It’s a place to rest and reset, something which is often necessary when interacting with the neuro-typical world. Crucially, this safe space can help avoid an oncoming anxiety attack or an exhausting and alienating meltdown.

“I want to see these solutions everywhere: workplaces, schools, hospitals, airports, festivals, concerts, commercial and sporting events – any busy or public spaces”

she explains.
Joey Pod

Entrepreneurialism

Angharad’s story is one of firsts. An entrepreneur at heart, Angharad has grabbed every opportunity available to her at UWE Bristol.

She founded the Inclusive Design Network (IDN) whilst studying for her undergraduate architecture degree. Thanks to donations from alumni, the UWE Bristol Fund supported IDN to host a series of talks on equality, diversity and inclusion within the built environment. The network has also been supported by The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Bristol and Bath.

As one of the first students on the new MSc Computational Architecture course at UWE Bristol, Angharad hopes to go on to complete a PhD in designing for neurodiversity, to enable her to become a Sensory Design Consultant.

Angharad’s modular screen will be on display at the Faculty of Environment and Technology’s degree show in 2022 (our first physical degree show since the coivd-19 Pandemic), alongside many more innovative ideas for products and services which aim to fill gaps in the market.

Degree Shows

Emerging talent at UWE Bristol will exhibit work at the annual graduate degree shows for the Creative Industries and Faculty of Environment and Technology. The events will celebrate the University’s ambitious and creative graduating students, through a mix of physical exhibitions and a digital showcase.

The degree shows kick off on Thursday 9 June with The Faculty of Environment and Technology (FET) Degree Show – covering architecture, creative technologies, computing, engineering, geography and the environment, and product design. The free event takes place between 17:00 and 21:00 at UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus.

The Creative Industries Degree Show, covering art, design, animation, drawing and print, fashion, media, performance, photography and filmmaking, opens to the public at the University’s vibrant City Campus – Bower Ashton, Arnolfini and Spike Island – on Saturday 11 June. The week-long showcase features a series of events including live music, drama performances, a festival stage and outdoor art gallery.

*reference from Local Government Association presentation.

UWE Bristol alumni – quick links

UWE Bristol Alumni homepage

Sign up to Alumni News and update your details

Join Alumni Connect online mentoring network

Explore Alumni benefits and discounts

“We’re going to make a little house for the bugs around here…”

Posted on

“… so they can have a better home than before” explains a pupil taking part in a local environmental project funded by the UWE Bristol Community Fund.

Bug hotels, bird boxes, bogs, stone mounds and log piles are just some of the new homes for wildlife being created by children from Park Primary school.

Students from UWE Bristol and pupils from the school are renovating a neglected area of Kingswood Park in East Bristol. Together they’re creating a nature area to support local biodiversity.

After an initial audit of existing nature in the area, design work began to plan new homes for wildlife. Over the summer work parties have been busy clearing pathways, removing brambles, digging out a bog and planting hedgerows and wildflowers. There are also plans for a tree trail from school to the park.

Children completing nature audit

Encouraging children to value nature

Hayley, who’s studying BSc Hons Environmental Science at UWE Bristol, is one of the students who volunteered their time to get stuck in creating and improving habitats with the children. She lives locally and was keen to get involved in a project which engages the community in looking after the nature around them.

“If you want people to care about nature, you have to first make them aware of it.”

says Hayley.
Work party from Park Primary school, Kingswood

The project has involved the entire school of 530 children, from wheelbarrow pushing 5-year olds to skilled secateurs users from year 6. They’re proud of their transformation of this part of the local park.

“Before children didn’t want to come here, but now they are asking their parents to come here all the time.”

Addison, Park Primary School Year 6 pupil

Building confidence through outdoor learning

Kelly Goodfellow, Senior Neurodiversity Practitioner at UWE Bristol saw an opportunity to help build children’s confidence through outdoor learning. Working with Kirstin Whitney, outdoor learning expert and teacher at Kingswood Park School, Kelly devised the project specifically to support children with a neurodiverse profile, who do not necessarily ‘shine’ in the classroom-based learning environment. 

Outdoor learning is proven to develop children’s self-esteem, cooperation and creativity. Children are given the freedom which empowers them to be forward thinking, problem solving, independent decision makers.

Bog digging

Making university an achievable goal

Kingswood Primary is in an urban area of South Gloucestershire bordering Bristol, identified as a disadvantaged community. The UWE Bristol Community Fund prioritises projects where students will work with young people in areas with low progression into higher education.

The project has brought positive role models from UWE Bristol into contact with the pupils and the community of Kingswood.

“The experiences and relationships it has created are an important step towards making university education an achievable future goal for pupils,”

Kelly says.

The future of the project

A year 6 pupil reflects on how the project will continue to evolve –

“We’re looking forward to carrying on the work over the coming years and keeping a record of the insects, amphibians, spiders and mammals that we find. We hope that you enjoy it as much as we do”.

Pupil using magnifying glass to observe bugs

Notes

Find out more about the project by watching this film made by the school.

The Community Fund is part of the UWE Bristol Fund.

To find out more and to donate, visit our UWE Bristol Fund webpages.

UWE Bristol alumni – quick links

UWE Bristol Alumni homepage

Sign up to Alumni News and update your details

Join Alumni Connect online mentoring network

Explore Alumni benefits and discounts

Back to top