Stadiums, by their very design, are meant to be places for everyone – huge buildings for thousands to gather and share an experience. Accessibility remains an issue, however, for people with different sorts of challenges, including autism.
With its intense noise and visuals, the atmosphere of a sports stadium can become overstimulating and even overwhelming to some individuals with autism, which is estimated to affect 1 in 59 children in the U.S.
Now the Philadelphia Eagles have taken an innovative step towards making their stadium accessible to anyone by adding a “sensory room” at their Lincoln Financial Field Stadium where fans with autism can go to relax and hang out if they become overstimulated or distressed.
I’m not a fan, per se, of the @Eagles 😉 but I am a big fan of this... Making the sports world more inclusive for kids and adults with sensory processing sensitivities.— Tiki Barber (@TikiBarber) August 8, 2019
Awesome job!!@kulturec #autism #ptsd @NFL @AtlantaFalcons @MiamiDolphins @Patriotshttps://t.co/gATU7WqYQf
The Eagles worked with a nonprofit called KultureCity to get the stadium certified as “sensory-inclusive.” This means that resources have been added throughout the stadium along with the room that’s been created specifically for those with sensory challenges. According to CNN:
“Every guest services stand in the stadium now offers “sensory bags” filled with tools like noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards and weighted lap pads.”
Then there’s the room itself which is envisioned as a place for people to regain their equilibrium if stressed, or as CNN put it:
“For fans who might get too overwhelmed by the loud noises and bright lights on the field, the sensory room offers a quiet spot to regroup.”
According to CNN the Eagles are the first team in the NFL to add a sensory room to assist those with sensory needs, though the idea has long since caught on in basketball with some 21 NBA teams already sensory-inclusive certified.
According to an Eagles press release the certification also involved giving stadium staff additional training and “included how to recognize guests with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation.”
The goal is to make the stadium an inclusive place for everyone regardless of the challenges they face. Without somewhere to go parents whose children have autism may have to leave a game or avoid attending altogether based on their child’s needs but now, with the sensory room and other tools, they won’t have to.
As KultureCity’s Chief Operating Officer Uma Srivastava told CNN, the goal is to “prevent social isolation for those with sensory needs. We provide sensory tools and recommendations to make simple modifications so an individual with sensory needs is able to enjoy anything.”
Judging from photos of kids already enjoying the sensory room and playing with the Eagle’s mascot, Swoop, the rooms are going to be a big hit.