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Thunderbird Global Headquarters recognized for excellence in accessibility

Thunderbird School's new building awarded city of Phoenix Mayor's Commission on Disability Issues architecture award

Exterior of the Thunderbird Global Headquarters building.

Photo by Inessa Binenbaum

October 14, 2022

The F. Francis and Dionne Najafi Thunderbird Global Headquarters building, home of the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, was recently selected as this year's recipient of the Excellence in Architecture Award at the city of Phoenix’s Disability Awards and Recognition Event.

Hosted by the Phoenix Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues (MCDI), in collaboration with the city of Phoenix Equal Opportunity Department, the event honors exceptional individuals, organizations and businesses for their dedication and service to the disability community and for dedicating their lives to enhancing Phoenix's quality of life for all citizens and communities.

A video of the virtual celebration is available to view on Youtube.

“Thank you to the MCDI, the city of Phoenix and Mayor Gallego for recognizing Thunderbird at this special event. We wanted to give every student, regardless of abilities, the resources to change the world, so we built the most technologically advanced educational headquarters on the planet, right here in downtown Phoenix," said Sanjeev Khagram, Thunderbird director general and dean. 

"Our global headquarters’ innovative design and use of technology positively contribute to the inclusion and advancement of all students, faculty, staff, partners and the greater Phoenix community,” he said.

The newly opened Thunderbird Global Headquarters building allows the world's leading technology to be accessible to any student.

The cutting-edge headquarters spans 110,000 square feet, spread over five floors. Located on the first floor is the Haas Digital Global Forum, which features a Planar CarbonLight CLI Series LED video wall with touchless, motion-responsive technology. This technology allows an individual to control content on a custom LED globe without touch and is accessible to individuals of all heights, including those that access from chair height. 

Thunderbird faculty, visiting leaders and dignitaries can present in the Global Forum, where their remarks are virtually accessible to any place and anyone across the globe.

The building also features a volumetric capture studio that creates full three-dimensional renderings for faculty and student initiatives. This technology will incorporate fully immersive language learning, allowing Thunderbird students access to discover a new language and meet with students and faculty from every corner of the globe.

The Valvur Family Language Lab is also a space dedicated to language learning in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The lab utilizes new technology to immerse students in language, helping with multi-language proficiency. The language lab uses new technology to ensure all Thunderbirds, present and future, can learn the languages that will help them become global leaders. Students can immerse themselves in culture while the building provides the tools that enhance their educational experience.

The global headquarters also includes a lactation and wellness room designed for mothers as they reenter the workforce and adjust to the unique needs of being away from their child. Many mothers return to work just weeks following birth and are in need of a dedicated space where they can feel comfortable.

Thunderbird's continued efforts to develop innovative solutions to eliminate barriers include ablution rooms. These spaces allow those following the Islamic faith to perform a cleansing ritual before prayers. Adjacently located is a meditation room for quiet contemplation, meditation or prayer, allowing for a safe space for students, faculty and staff, throughout downtown Phoenix to practice their religion or meditate.

“Our vision, to advance inclusive and sustainable prosperity worldwide, remains our steadfast mindset,'' Khagram said. “At Thunderbird, we're committed to improving the quality of life for all residents and communities of Phoenix and all around the world.”

After the passing of House Bill 2113 in May 2019, Thunderbird’s Global Headquarters became the very first Arizona State University building in Phoenix to install a universal changing table (UCT), thereby, providing a dignified, safe space for individuals with unique needs to be accommodated and changed with respect. 

Thunderbird is among the first organizations in Arizona leading the charge for accessibility in toileting and is included in the list of Dignified Changes organizations. 

“This was a monumental achievement, as the passing of the bill into law occurred after architectural plans were already in motion. Yet, leadership at Thunderbird and ASU’s Office of the University Architect believed in the importance of this initiative and made sure that a changing table was installed that would accommodate both babies and adults,” stated Nicole Anderson, co-founder of Dignified Changes and part of the leadership team behind House Bill 2113. 

This unique feature can be found on the fifth floor of the building in a unisex/family restroom, complete with automatic door openers and accessible locking, washing and exiting elements. The UCT is open to the downtown Phoenix area community and visitors to ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, as it remains the only UCT within a 20-mile radius.

The public can take a virtual tour of the Global Headquarters on Thunderbird's website, using a web browser or VR headset to explore the building as if you were there in person. This tour is fully accessible, as those who are deaf or hard of hearing can enable closed captioning, and people with blindness or low vision may listen to the narrator/tour guide leading them through the building. Individuals located outside of Phoenix or with mobility challenges can experience each room on the five floors without impairment or obstruction.

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