Allison Kobren Allen


Increasing Public Awareness of Swallowing Disorders: A visual and experiential approach


Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) affects up to 15 million adults in the United States each year. Nevertheless, many are unaware of its existence and implications. My professional experience working with the dysphagia population has motivated me to consider ways to raise public awareness about this debilitating condition. Drawing upon my design background, I sought to devise a way to inform the general public about dysphagia in a manner more engaging than say, a stereotypical information pamphlet. I strove to create an experience that would engage people and make them eager to learn more.

Dysphagia Bistro is a pop-up café staffed by speech-language pathologists (and speech-language pathology students), who work the most directly with swallowing disorders. The walls of the bistro are adorned by large, radiographic imagery that depict the intricacies of normal and disordered swallowing. Visitors order food and drinks from a menu but instead of selecting specific items, they order food and liquid based upon texture. This exposes individuals to the notion of diet texture modification, a daily reality for many who suffer from dysphagia. After completion of the meal, visitors are encouraged to reflect upon their experience by recording their thoughts on notecards and adhering them to the bistro walls. Their thoughts become a part of the exhibit for future diners.

All visitors receive an exhibition booklet which adds informational context to the activities. The booklet seeks to make material more approachable through the use of imagery and typography.