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Corgan Receives Grant from American Society of Interior Designers Foundation to Study Design for Educators with Disabilities

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DALLAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Global architecture firm Corgan has been awarded a $30,000 research grant from the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Foundation to study the experiences of teachers with disabilities — a diverse community with limited representation in existing research. Corgan—Hugo, the firm’s research and innovation group, will partner with Corgan’s education sector on research aimed at uncovering actionable insights to promote inclusive design strategies for schools.

Approximately 1 in 8 teachers identify as having a disability, including learning differences, chronic illnesses, physical disabilities, or visual impairments. For designers without disabilities, it can be difficult to understand the specific challenges educators with disabilities encounter while working in schools primarily designed for children. Corgan’s research project – Experiencing Evidence to Build Empathy: Improving Spatial Design Through Simulated Experience Using a Gerontological Suit – aims to reduce this “empathy gap” by observing and simulating the impact of disabilities — physical, sensory, temporary, chronic, visible, and invisible — on educators’ experiences in the built environment and evaluating how design can be used to relieve these pain points. Insights will help shape inclusive design in schools.

Suiting Up

Over eight months, the research team will approach the research in phases: outreach, user experience, simulation, analysis, and design development. Outreach consists of interviews and surveys with teachers with disabilities in order to better understand their daily interactions with the built environment. Further, a research team will use a gerontologic (GERT) suit, which simulates limitations common in aging and conditions like temporary injury, pregnancy, sensory sensitivity, arthritis, and diabetes, in an experiment at a Corgan-designed elementary school in North Texas. By wearing the GERT suit, educators without disabilities will be able to provide feedback and help identify opportunities for targeted design interventions to better support their peers.

Insights in Action

As an educational resource for designers, Corgan will publish an open-source design guidebook informed by the research insights. The research team will also host an interactive workshop exploring empathetic design solutions in the fall of 2024.

“Learning from teachers and their unique needs in learning environments lets us make design decisions that are more thoughtful and personalized for all end-users,” said Melissa Hoelting, Senior Design Research Lead of Corgan—Hugo. “We are grateful for support from the ASID Foundation to allow us to dig into research that will guide us towards scalable design solutions that resonate with teachers’ real-life needs.”

The ASID Foundation grant program recognizes outstanding research projects that will be developed into educational resources to support the interior design practice. In 2023, the Foundation called for research on designing humanizing environments for imperiled people, and activating diversity, equity, and inclusion in design solutions.

Explore more Corgan research insights at News & Insights | Corgan.


Corgan is an employee-owned architecture and design firm with 17 locations and nearly 1,000 team members globally. The firm, ranked as the #4 architecture firm by Building Design + Construction, works with clients in a variety of sectors including aviation & mobility, data centers, education, health, mixed-use, multifamily, office, and workplace. Founded in 1938, Corgan has developed a strong reputation for agility in design by anticipating marketplace changes and leading clients to thoughtful, data-driven design solutions. Its research insights and design expertise empower the organization to foresee emerging changes and develop solutions that minimize risk, create flexibility, and maximize longevity. To learn more about Corgan, visit


Lori O’Briant
(972) 852-1263