Jacob deHahn, making the world accessible by design

Jacob deHahn

Jacob deHahn, an energetic and bubbly New England native with a never-ending Netflix queue, is determined to make the world a more accessible place. Through his freshman year project, Jake designed a wooden phone case stimulating hand holding to assist a friend with epilepsy get through seizures. With the phone case, he realized that industrial and interaction design in the School of Design in VPA was the right path, along with minoring in entrepreneurship.

A few years ago, Jake’s first entrepreneurial venture started with Jake’s Patches, a business selling hand sewn, word-based patches via Etsy, street fairs, and pop-up shops. His main goal was to utilize in-class lessons in real life situations. Through several successful moments and a few inevitable hurdles, Jake’s Patches was a perfect opportunity to discover what he loved to do: connect with customers and create beautiful products. Now Jake is focused on his fifth year project and believes working at the LaunchPad, along with being a TA for two summer courses for design and entrepreneurship, will curate inspiration for his thesis.

Jake admits he has a secret weapon to accomplish what he craves to do: his hearing loss. Born profoundly deaf, Jake proclaims that his disability, despite the daily struggles, gives him the ability to see things that need to be fixed and ways to improve quality of life for all people. Currently a unilateral cochlear implant user, Jake proudly shares his personal story at conferences around the nation, building a platform to show how having a disability shouldn’t stop anyone from defying stigmas and dreaming big.

He gushes over the opportunity he never imagined was possible: studying abroad in Florence, Italy during the spring semester of 2018. An inexperienced traveler (he’s never been outside of the US before!) with no knowledge of Italian language, Jake was eager to live in a country with different food and culture. The experience challenged him to conquer his fears and confront obstacles that often included his disability. Regardless, Jake’s relentless advocacy for himself paired with his drive to grow as a learner further created who he is as an individual.

Through the study abroad experience, he discovered what accessibility (or lack of) was for people around the world trekking through five different countries in over 20 cities. With his design skills and creative storytelling, Jake is determined to make his fifth year thesis project centered around universal accessibility through a product or service.

Ultimately, Jake aspires to be the person his eight-year-old self would’ve wanted to be: someone who helped others when they’re sad, built really cool, unique things, and ate ice cream every night before bed. He’s sure his eight-year-old self would be pretty proud of the person he is today – although probably disappointed he hasn’t opened an ice cream shop so he could eat ice cream all day long.

Overall, as a designer, entrepreneur, and storyteller, Jake foresees a future filled with international travels, new adventures, and side-pain laughter. Go follow him on Instagram (or whatever the cool kids use these days) and check out his portfolio!