Sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by people with autism, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other similar conditions. One of the major barriers for these individuals is sensitivity to overstimulation and noise, which play a large part of the environment at public spaces like sports arenas.
The United Center and non-profit KultureCity announced a partnership Wednesday that will provide items like noise-reducing headphones, fidget tools and verbal cue cards for guests in need at games and events. Sensory bags can be picked up at guest relations booths inside Gates 2 and 6 on the 100-level, Section 221 and 325. There will also be a quiet room at Section 115.
“We are proud to officially become certified as a sensory inclusive arena in Chicago and to be able to create an accommodating and positive experience for all guests and fans with sensory challenges,” said Joe Myhra, Sr. Vice President – Operations & Administration, United Center, in a release. “As we continue to evolve the building and its experiences, our guests and their safety are always top priority. Becoming certified is one major step in our efforts to continually elevate the guest experience.”
As part of the partnership, arena staff was trained by medical professionals on how to recognize guests with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation. Blackhawks and Bulls front office staff have also received the training.
“It is truly a heartwarming moment to know that you will be able to see families attend a basketball or hockey game, a true community binding experience, with their loved ones who have a sensory challenge and were not able to previously attend,” Traci Johnson, executive director of KultureCity, said in a release.
“Our communities are what shape our lives and to know that the United Center is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, is included in their community is amazing.”