Guest Blog: Intro to Sensory-Friendly
At AutismBC, we listen to the voices of our members and try to learn from them. We are starting a series of guest blogs from others within our community. The first installment, about becoming sensory-friendly, comes from Christel Seeberger. She worked in health care for more than 25 years helping children, adults and seniors with sensory sensitivity and sensory overload. Christel has sensory sensitivity herself; she has hearing loss and wears hearing aids. She founded Sensory Friendly Solutions in 2016 to help people, businesses and organizations discover sensory-friendly solutions for daily life. Watch the mini-documentary: “Too Busy. Too Noisy. Too Bright.” at www.sensoryfriendly.net
Have you heard the phrase sensory-friendly and wonder what it means? Maybe you are curious, having seen an event or location say they are sensory-friendly? In this blog post, you will learn:
- Whom do sensory-friendly experiences help?
- Why do events and locations offer a sensory-friendly experience?
- What happens at a sensory-friendly event or location?
Whom do sensory-friendly experiences help?
The phrase “sensory overload’ is being searched more and more on Google, for example. It is estimated that at least one-third of the population is prone to sensory-sensitivity and experiences sensory overload due to underlying and hidden disabilities. Many people simply find the world too busy, too noisy and too bright. Sensory challenges are often a part of autism, anxiety, concussion, PTSD, neurodiversity and hearing loss, for instance. Sensory-friendly experiences in the community are easier for many people who have sensory sensitivity or experience sensory overload to enjoy. The sensory experience is toned down and is less intense. Therefore, it is less likely to be bothersome or overwhelming.
Why do events and locations offer a sensory-friendly experience?
Many events and locations around the world are offering sensory-friendly experiences. Examples include museums, grocery stores, art galleries, sports arenas, tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, and many more. When businesses and organizations care about their clients, they make changes to improve the customer experience. Becoming sensory-friendly is simply a way to make more people comfortable.
What happens at a sensory-friendly event or location?
Events and locations make changes temporarily or permanently to become more sensory-friendly. The two most common changes at sensory-friendly events or locations are made to noise and lighting. For example, noise levels are reduced. That can mean things like turning off background music. No announcements. Turning off noisy equipment like fans. At a grocery store that might mean no shopping cart collection, so there isn’t the noise from carts banging together. Light levels are also adjusted. At a movie theatre, that means house lights are kept on, so the theatre isn’t as dark. Bright, blinking, flashing or strobe lights are turned off. Another example is creating a quiet space or low sensory zone. Sometimes it isn’t possible to make changes across a whole event or location but a room, space or area can be designated to make those positive changes with less noise, fewer people and no potentially irritating lighting. It is a great way to let customers take a break and continue to enjoy an event or location. Finally, letting people know what to expect and what changes are made is important. It helps everyone plan for a successful visit to your event or location.
Here are 4 simple ideas to try at your event or location to start your journey to become more sensory-friendly:
- Reduce noise: no background noise or announcements.
- Adjust lighting: good lighting but no blinking, flashing, strobe lights.
- Create a low sensory zone: make a room or space that is calming.
- Tell people what to expect: create a sign with information about the changes and share the details online.
Sensory overload is overwhelming, but sensory-friendly solutions can be simple.
Written by Christel Seeberger, Founder & CEO, Sensory Friendly Solutions.