Sensory days will make museum more accessible for people with autism

A new scheme is set to launch at a museum in Sheffield to make it more accessible to people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Launching in tandem with this year’s National Autism Day, the Emergency Services Museum will start monthly ‘sensory days’ tomorrow, which will make the museum experience friendlier for people with ASD.

Rosie Norrell, the museum’s Learning and Discovery Coordinator, said: “It means that people who are on the autistic spectrum are able to come and experience the museum.

“At other times, when its quite busy and open to the public, they might not be able to get the same experience, it might be a bit overwhelming for them.”

Loud noises, such as the machine engines, and flashing lights will all be turned off and smell pots that are usually dotted around the museum will also be removed.

Noise from machinery displays will be turned off

A number of organisations in the entertainment industry have made moves to make their spaces more accessible for people with ASD.

Although the Emergency Services Museum is working to a smaller scale, the team decided it was time to step forward.

With the help of The Autism Centre, Sheffield, they were able to design an environment that would work.

“We’ve wanted to do this for such a long time, we felt that April was the perfect month to start because of World Autism Day.

“It tied in nicely with what we wanted to do and it was a lovely way to celebrate it, so that we could be more inclusive for everyone,” Rosie said.

Often people with an ASD are highly sensitive to the environment around them. Being in crowded, noisy places can be a distressing and uncomfortable experience.

The sensory days will provide an opportunity for families to enjoy the museum together without worry.

“It promotes a nice level of understanding because all the families who are coming with their children will obviously understand if someone is not very happy,” added Rosie.

As well as turning things off, the museum will be adding features such as sensory bags for each visitor, filled with things like feeling cards and soft objects, to make the experience better for them.

There will also be sensory rooms filled with bean bags and bubble machines.

“It’s so that people are able to experience the museum and feel like its a safe place and we want to make it as safe a space as possible,” Rosie added.

The sensory days will take place on the first Tuesday of every month, 10am – 4pm.