Showing posts with label accessibility. Show all posts
Showing posts with label accessibility. Show all posts

January 8, 2022

Sensory Room at Watford Football Club (soccer)

There's an exciting new viewing area at the Watford Football Club Vicarage Road Stadium in Watford, England, a small-sized football (soccer) sports arena that first opened in 1922 and has capacity for 22,200 fans.

The "Sensory Room" at Watford Football Club is a specifically designed stadium viewing room for children with autism and their families. There are only two of their kind (Arsenal FC opened a smaller sensory room in 2017) among football club stadiums around the world. The Sensory Room was installed in 2019 to provide a special place for these kids and their families that helps to buffer the loud sports arena environment that can often be overwhelming or debilitating to people with this condition.

The room is available for booking by any child and their family or caregiver with a doctor's note. The special room’s design is already winning several awards for its accessible design and forward-thinkingness in inclusive practices.

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What’s really important about this Sensory Room is that Watford is making a statement about financial and space management that prioritizes mental and emotional health in professional sports. It’s a statement of inclusivity and choosing people over profits. In the prime arena real estate the Sensory Room occupies, most arenas would stall another bar or premium viewing box. You can see in the image below that the Sensory Room occupies prime viewing space that could provide hundreds of more seats to gain revenue from:

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Watford’s Sensory Room features several supportive attributes including easy entry points to the stadium so the children don’t have to experience the crowds and turnstiles, a calming down area in the rear of the Sensory Room with special lights, water tubes, calming projections, and comfort seating like bean bags; emotion-coded non-verbal labels to communicate family needs and emotional states easily with staff, and provides complete isolation from the surrounding bright lights and loud noises of the arena. The team’s happy yellow and black mascot, Harry the Hornet, makes regular visits to say hi to the children and their families in the Sensory Room.

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So if you like to watch football (soccer), consider supporting Watford’s forward-thinking club that makes inclusive decisions in their stadium planning.
And if you’re a manager at a sports venue, consider making positive changes at your sports or public facility for people with different abilities. Create opportunities and remove barriers so that all people can enjoy your venue.
You can see more of Watford's Sensory Room in the below video:


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