Going to a live sporting event is a huge event in anyone’s life. You are there to create memories, and for some see your favorite team live for the first time. All sporting arenas have wheelchair accessibility because of ADA compliance that requires all arenas to be accessible to people with disabilities so that people can still have equal access to the game. That allows people to still enjoy and see the game. But accessibility goes beyond that. Think about the people who are on the spectrum, suffer from PTSD, or have an illness like Parkinsons or dementia. This semester, we read Building Access written by Aimee Hamrai. They are quoted saying; “A misfit occurs when the environment does not sustain the shape and function of the body that enters it”. They explain how disability can not be fixed with a set of guidelines, how it is important to understand and and accommodate all people, so that they can not feel like a misfit. Because of the lack of attention to the subject matter of people with sensory problems, it can make it hard for them to enjoy their favorite teams because of the loud noises, and high intensity actions that are found at sporting events. What do those fans do? With the no re entry rule put in place at most major arenas, this becomes increasingly difficult for families with sensory needs to be able to enjoy the game.
The Philadelphia Eagles are among the first out of all the NFL teams to build a sensory room in their stadium, Lincoln Financial Field. This was created in August 2019, so it was ready just before the start of this past season. Inside of the room you can find comfortable chairs, relaxing lights, and different fidget toys. This room is designed for people who get overwhelmed by the noise, bright lights, and surroundings of being at a live sports game. Also, at guest services, fans can get sensory bags, which include noise canceling headphones, fidget toys, and weighted lap pads free of charge.
In 2017, The Cleveland Cavaliers became the first NBA team to open up a sensory room inside of the Rocket Mortgage Arena. With this, the arena has introduced a “every guest, every time” set of guidelines. Within this, it includes access to the accessibility rooms, a sensory bag, and something revolutionary that this arena is doing is allowing people with sensory overload to exit the arena and be able to re- enter. Both the Eagles and the Cavaliers partnered with the company KultureCity which sponsored the building of these sensory rooms, and also held informational sessions with stadium workers. When looking at my college campus, Saint Joseph’s University, they are already making strides with the Kinney Center. But what does it look like for a student who has sensory needs but still wants to enjoy an SJU basketball game? The Kinney Center is located on the complete other side of campus from Hagan Arena where games are played. In my opinion, I think that a school that has made such great strides in this area should have some kind of sensory area in their sporting arena. Especially with a local Philadelphia team recently building a sensory room within their arena, this could serve as a model.
These are amazing strides being made by these professional teams. This should act as a guide for other teams and arenas around the nation.