Make Your Arena or Stadium Sensory-Friendly

Arenas or stadiums are common spaces to host exciting events such as sports games or concerts. Typically, these buildings are extremely large and can fit hundreds or even thousands of people. As a result, these environments tend to be very sensory-rich. Therefore, many people, including families with children who have sensory sensitivities are not able to comfortably attend events in these spaces. However, there are ways in which arenas or stadiums can become sensory-friendly environments that are accessible and inclusive.

This blog post will highlight simple ways that arenas and stadiums can become more sensory-friendly environments to make people comfortable!

Infographic highlighting 6 ways to create a sensory-friendly stadium.

Create a social story

Firstly, an effective way you can create a more accessible and sensory-friendly arena is by creating a social story. A social story is a simple narration of the social experience within a specific environment or experience from start to finish. Typically, a social story will have both words and pictures to describe the sensory experience in an understandable way for everyone.

You may be curious as to why social stories are beneficial for children with sensory sensitivities. For many people with greater sensitivities, going to an unknown environment or participating in a new experience often feels very stressful. A significant contributor to this stress tends to be associated with the unknown of the experience. Therefore, creating a social story that describes this process helps to alleviate this stress and ensure that children know what to expect.

Provide sensory kits

Another way to make an arena or stadium sensory-friendly is by providing sensory kits. For instance, these kits could consist of various sensory tools such as noise-cancelling ear muffs, sunglasses, sensory tools and fidgets and a map of the stadium. These tools will help a child better adjust to the sensory-rich environment For example, stadiums are likely always noisy. Therefore, providing noise-cancelling earmuffs allows people to reduce the sound to be more suitable for their sensory needs.

A great example of utilizing sensory kits to create a more accessible environment is the NHL’s collaboration with The Assist to distribute sensory kits at hockey games. By making these kits, they have allowed many more families to be able to attend and enjoy hockey games together!

Reduce loud, unnecessary noises, and bright lights

Another effective technique to help create a more sensory-friendly environment is by managing the lights and noise within a stadium. It is very common for sports games and concerts to have bright and flashing lights during the event. Although it might be entertaining and exciting for some attendees, it may also cause feelings of stress and anxiety for others. In fact, a common irritant for many people with sensory sensitivities is flashy lighting. Therefore, try to reduce or minimize the amount of flashy lighting within the arena, alternatively let people know in advance if there will be bright, flashing lights at specific times. Create sensory-friendly times when there is less bright light. Or create a space where people can take a break from flashing, bright lights.

In addition to this, arenas are known to be extremely noisy. The loud music and crowds of people can be overwhelming. Like for lights, create sensory-friendly times. And ensure that there is a special space where noise is muted and background music, announcements, and the like are turned off.

Create a quiet space

Sensory-friendly times are helpful, but as mentioned special spaces are too. An alternative option is to offer a quiet space for people to go and rest and take a break. A quiet space is ideally located in a separate closed-off area from the main event space to eliminate noise and bright light. Consider adding different features to make it more comfortable for your guests within this quiet area. For example, this may include adding comfortable seating and fidgets.

A crowd of people attending an event at a sensory-friendly arena.

Have food and drink easily accessible

Furthermore, have food and drinks easily accessible at the event. At many arenas, there are often large lines to have access to food and drink. You may not realize that feelings of hunger and thirst and not being able to eat or drink may lead to sensory overload. So too, will crowds of people in front of concession stands. Therefore, organize lines, provide visual cues for lines and add attendants to keep lines moving.

Provide accessible toilets

The research titled, “Physical Accessibility for Disabled People: Analysis of Toilet Facilities in Primary Health Care Units” by Esmeraldo Áfio., 2016 found that physical inaccessibility in some toilet facilities makes it difficult or even impossible for people with disabilities to access toilets, a significant barrier since 16% of the global population is disabled (WHO) 1. It is essential to ensure that there are accessible, family-friendly as well as gender-neutral toilets available at the stadium to make it a sensory-friendly environment. For people with sensory differences, difficulties with mobility easy access to toilet is important. Make sure they are sufficient in number and type.

This blog post discussed ways that you can modify your arena or stadium to offer a more sensory-friendly experience.

Interested in learning more ways to modify your event to become more accessible and inclusive? Check out:

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  1. Esmeraldo Áfio, A. C., De Carvalho, L. V., Marques, J. F., Pinheiro De Oliveira, P. M., De Almeida, P. C., & Freitag Pagliuca, L. M. (2016). Physical Accessibility for Disabled People: Analysis of Toilet Facilities in Primary Health Care Units. Open Journal of Nursing, 06(11), 948–957.
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