School of Communication and the Arts


Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design (MFA)


Sarah Lynn Dempsey


Graphic Design, Accessibility, Aphasia, Airports, Travel, Americans with Disabilities Act


Art and Design


Imagine traveling in an airport in another country. The language is entirely foreign, and all signs are written in text you cannot understand. You have ten minutes to make your connection. How do you find your gate? How do you ask questions? This hypothetical generation of panic is the reality for many travelers every day who suffer from aphasia. Aphasia is a language disorder often caused by stroke or other brain injury that makes it difficult to communicate, read, and process numbers, especially in stressful environments like an airport. More than two million people in America suffer from aphasia and have not been effectively served in the public sphere. Since 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has sought to “promote equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for Americans with disabilities.” Though America has seen great strides in helping public spaces become more accessible to the physically handicapped, fewer attempts have been made to help those suffering from mental handicaps. This research will help to address one of the many subgroups that struggle to mentally navigate public spaces. Through secondary research, case studies, and visual analysis, this research will explore practical methods and solutions that enable people with aphasia to navigate and utilize airports independently and confidently. The solution to this issue will require a layered approach of reimagining signage and navigation tools for airports and creating training tools for airport employees to better understand and serve aphasia patients when they travel. Equipping aphasic travelers with the necessary tools and support will empower them to fly with confidence and independence. This collection of research and tools could expand to impact other people with language disorders navigating high-traffic public spaces like hospitals, schools, subways, and bus stations.