Architect and advocate
A native of Buffalo, John Dickinson was deafened by spinal meningitis when he was 2. He attended the now-defunct Mystic Oral School in Mystic, Connecticut (which the students called "Mistake School"), and was mainstreamed from middle through high school. (He later picked up fluency in ASL.) Since his father worked for Kmart, setting up new stores, his family was constantly relocating. He loved running, and his prowess as a competitive runner won him a scholarship to University of Kentucky, where he found another passion: architecture.
He studied in Paris, won the the prestigious Paris Prize in Architecture from the Van Alen Institute, received his B.Arch from UK in 1988, and MBA from University of Phoenix in 1996, and participated in three Deaflympics and the Summer Olympics USA Trials.
In 1990, he stated his career as an architect for Davis Partnership-Denver, where he was the project architect for Columbine Senior High School in Littleton—the same school that became the site of the infamous massacre of April 20, 1999. Afterwards, Dickinson helped design major renovations (such as replacing the old library with a memorial atrium and building a new library) to promote healing and increase security.
Says Dickinson, "It was a visit to the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind and my work as a pro bono architect that founded my passion for working with special-needs schools to help change the feeling and setting of institutions to more of a home setting." He founded, and directs, Winter & Co.'s Special Needs Studio, which specializes in designing facilities for Deaf and HoH and blind populations. This includes renovating and upgrading old buildings and constructing new ones from scratch, at schools for the deaf. Another project he's been involved with is Apache ASL Trails Deaf Senior Housing. A few of the many requirements he takes into consideration are good traffic flow, legible signage, lack of visual obstructions, good natural and artificial lighting, and unimpeded sightlines.
He's married to Janet Dickinson, Executive Director of New York School for the Deaf (Fanwood). They have five children, three of whom are deaf.