Students Create a Bright and Dramatic Makeover For PWDs

These interior design students hosted brunches and sold t-shirts to raise funds, and rolled up their sleeves to renovate this hostel for the disabled

This is a story about students helping other students. Because life as a student could be hard, especially if you’re juggling academic activities, financial responsibilities, and the daily struggle of commuting in the metro. But if you are a person with a disability (PWD), student life could be doubly challenging.

Bahay Biyaya in Cubao, Quezon City was created to address these challenges. The 400sqm youth hostel was built to house 40 to 50 high school and college PWD students, to build camaraderie and help the youth foster a sense of independence and self-reliance. The hostel, which was set up in the 1980s, had seen better days.

In mid-2017, graduating Interior Design students of 2018 from the University of the Philippines-Diliman stepped in to help out Bahay Biyaya. Every year, the graduating class of interior design picks a deserving institution or organization and gives them a free, complete renovation (a makeover, rather!) instead of setting up a temporary exhibit that would be demolished soon after. The project that they launched was “Tuloy: Removing Barriers through Interior Design.”

“The student hostel remained untouched since the 1980s, manifesting outdated PWD standards,” reveals Gabrielle Sayson, one of the class members of Tuloy. “The lounge was gloomy, poorly lit, and had a worn-out reception counter. There were minimal furniture pieces, and these were not maximized.” Aside from these, the other areas in Bahay Biyaya were run-down, and some facilities were inaccessible to PWDs, such as the overhead cabinets in the kitchen.

Aside from approaching sponsors, the Tuloy team held several fundraisers—from hosting a Saturday brunch to selling cheesecake and K-Pop t-shirts—just to raise funds. The construction took around a month, which was a challenge as the design students were also still in school! They used the principles of Universal Design (designing spaces that are accessible to all) to create a bright, efficient, and hopeful new Bahay Biyaya. Scroll down to see the amazing before and after photos.

Retain an open layout, but define areas.

The former state of the main lounge area, which also received guests of the students, was dark and had no proper seats. The Lounge Team of Erika Balankig, Alyanna Pang, Patricia de Jesus, Cyrene Navia, Jonvi Sanchez, and Keeza Abrenilla retained the space’s open layout, but created defined seating areas using occasional tables and chairs, comfy armchairs, and couches. A receptionist’s desk was added near the entrance.

Brighten up the color palette.

As related by Gabrielle, the lounge was “poorly lit…brought about by the lack of lighting fixtures. Insufficient indoor air quality was also evident due to the lack of a permanent ventilation system.” The dark and dirty walls were washed in a clean, white paint; woven-fiber panels were installed to add texture to the ceiling, and multiple LED lamps were provided. A brightly colored mural by artist Alfred Galvez serves as the lounge area’s accent wall.

The cement floor was retained for easy maintenance and cleaning, but accented with colorful machuka tile patterns. A mini-library and a TV setup comprise the entertainment area on one side of the lounge.

Choose a cheerful theme for a dining area.

“We used the concept of Agahan or ‘breakfast’ in the design process as it is a moment when one feels warm and welcome…and when one’s strength needed for the day is drawn,” explains Gabrielle. The Dining Area team of Edamae Olajay, Danielle dela Cruz, Hannah Cresencio, and Jiji Garcia used a sunny-yellow theme for this space. Extra dining chairs were not needed, as most of the residents are in wheelchairs.

One of the first things the team did was to replace the worn-out utensils locker (which was unsanitary) with brand new lockers decorated with yellow-and-gray floral patterns. A buffet station for drinks and condiments was also added to one side.

Consider the general requirements of Universal Design.

The men’s and women’s bathrooms were in a sad state, tiles were broken and grout was moldy, and both needed a complete replacement of sanitary fixtures and doors. The Toilet and Bath team of Gabrielle Sayson, Macon Davila, Trisha Lyn Perez, and Cleyanne dela Calzada replaced the worn-out tiles with brand-new, cream-colored non-slip tiles.

Each bathroom all have important PWD-friendly features, such as hand rails, grab rails, adjustable showerheads, and a non-slip seat for the shower stall. “Aside from using the principles of Universal Design... we used the Person-Environment Theory as we analyzed the compatability of each space with its users…this entails assurance of a good design that improves the users’ comfort and productivity.”

In the kitchen, keep frequently used items visible and within reach.

“The main problem lay in the unutilized overhead cabinets and storage spaces because they were too high for the users, especially those who were wheelchair-bound,” says Gabrielle of the kitchen. The team of Regina Sula, Lieve Aurelio, Corinne Bolisay, Gillian Guiang, and Pauline Indita removed the overhead cabinets and located all the utensils and cooking tools on the countertop. No base cabinets were added, so that there would be leg-space for the wheelchair-bound.

The old kitchen also lacked preperation areas, and whatever countertop was available had broken and worn-out tiles. “Moldy and cracked countertop tiles became a huge issue as this was very unsanitary,” adds Gabrielle. These broken tiles were replaced with new countertops and backsplashes, and a proper prep counter was added on one side.

Sanitec Import Ventures, Inc. was the sponsor for the bathroom fixtures and fittings.


Leave a comment