Reasons every football team needs a sensory room.
It creates an inclusive environment.
Disabled people have been fighting and campaigning for years to be included in society. Things are slowly improving. However people with hidden disabilities, like autism, are still finding reasonable adjustments hard to come by. The sensory box provides a perfect solution for stadiums to create a safe environment for supporters who may be unable to sit comfortably in the main stands due to sensory difficulties. By creating an atmosphere where supporters and their families can watch a game together, sometimes for the first time ever, do not underestimate the impact that can have on someones well-being. What an opportunity for football teas, rugby teams and cricket grounds to grab hold of and run with.
The idea of sensory viewing boxes came from the Shippey family. The Shippey Campaign was created to create a safe and welcoming environment for their autistic son, Nathan, to enjoy a Sunderland football match.
“That’s when the campaign really started. We compiled a 3000+ signature petition, targeted around the local special schools in the area, we gained numerous emails of support and used the Equality Act 2010 to encourage the club to listen to us.
We met regularly at the club and after a year of discussions, meetings, plans, signature collecting, emailing, research and decision making, we are very proud to announce that our campaign has had its first success! The Nathan Shippey Sensory Room (named after our son) at Sunderland AFC has been installed. It is the first sensory room of its kind where people (young and old) can watch a match ‘live’!
The room was opened for the first home game of the 2015/16 season and has been a resounding success. The room has been used by both adults and children, and also by away fans as well as home fans. It has various pieces of sensory equipment in there and following the end of the first full season in there, we Peter and Kate Shippey are the only two people who have the experience of being in there all match, every match.”
It shows you care
Perhaps this isn’t that high on the agenda of most sports teams. However on the flip side of that, how would you feel as a fan of a particular team if they didn’t do everything they could to accommodate your needs as a supporter? Pretty shit right!? That would never rub off well on your team, if they didn’t value you enough as a fan to make some adjustments to enable you to watch your favourite team. So do something to change that.
Imagine being a fan of a team who didn’t value your needs?
As society becomes more aware of hidden disabilities and the sensory issues people experience on a daily basis, the more industries that are beginning to provide reasonable adjustments for their customers or visitors. Retail outlets have been hosting “Autism Hours”. This is where they turned off the music in store, adjust the lighting and try to support a more sensorily comfortable environment. Cinemas and theatres have been hosting ‘Relaxed performances’ again where they make adjustments to sound levels and lighting to make guests feel more comfortable. The key to all of this is making customers/visitors/guests/supporters more comfortable.
It makes business sense.
This might be one that sports teams and stadiums would pay more attention to initially. So there is a £249 billion pie that stadiums can take a piece of. The purple pound is the estimated spending power of disabled people and their families. Why ANY business wouldn’t want to make themselves open and accommodating to this huge economic power baffles me. Contact your club, ask their access team if they have a sensory room. If they don’t, inform them of the impact having a sensory room would have on your matchday experience.