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Sensory processing issues are more common than you may think. At least one in twenty people may be affected by Sensory Processing Disorder. And as many as one in six children in the U.S. experiences some form of sensory impairment. 


Just as you would try to accommodate guests with a physical disability, creating sensory-friendly experiences gives more guests the opportunity to enjoy your events. This comprehensive guide will help you create experiences that everyone can enjoy with 10 simple strategies to incorporate into your next event.

What are Sensory Impairments?

Before we get into the details of how to create a sensory-accessible event, let's first clarify what sensory impairments mean. This category includes those who are deaf or hearing impaired, blind, or have a visual impairment. Sensory impairments also include guests with conditions such as autism and Down syndrome, many of whom process sensory information differently than others.


These sensitivities can vary from person to person and across different senses like hearing, sight, and touch. 


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Why Care About Sensory-Friendly Events?

Accommodating different sensory needs isn't just a matter of meeting legal requirements—it's about fostering inclusivity, expanding audiences, and creating positive experiences for everyone. Here are a few benefits to event organizers who host sensory-friendly and autism-friendly events:


Creating an inclusive environment ensures that everyone feels welcome and valued. By accommodating diverse sensory needs, you demonstrate to your guests a commitment to accessibility and equality.

Increased Attendance

By making events sensory-friendly, you actually open your doors to a wider audience. People with sensory sensitivities or disabilities may be more likely to attend events that cater to their needs, leading to increased ticket sales for you!

Positive Reputation

Events that prioritize accessibility and inclusivity earn a positive reputation within their communities. Attendees appreciate efforts to make events welcoming for everyone, which can enhance your professional reputation and attract more guests in the future.

Legal Requirements

In many places, there are legal requirements or regulations regarding accessibility for people with disabilities. Failing to accommodate sensory needs could result in legal consequences or discrimination complaints.

Ethical Responsibility

Everyone deserves the opportunity to participate in social, cultural, and recreational activities, regardless of their sensory abilities. It's simply the right thing to do.

Customer Satisfaction

Accommodating sensory needs enhances the overall experience for attendees, leading to higher levels of satisfaction and positive feedback.

Support for Neurodiversity

Recognizing and accommodating diverse sensory needs supports the concept of neurodiversity, which acknowledges that people have different ways of perceiving and experiencing the world. Embracing neurodiversity enriches the event experience for all your guests.


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How Do You Create A Sensory-Friendly Event?

Accommodating guests with sensory impairments doesn’t have to mean changing everything about your event setup. There are many simple (and often free!) adjustments you can make to be more sensory-friendly.

1. Publish Clear Information on Your Website

When a guest knows what to expect from your event, they can make an informed choice.  


Your event website and social media pages should provide detailed information about potential sensory concerns. Describe the typical experience, including information about lighting, noise levels, and available accommodations. 

2. Have Clear Signage On Site

Effective signage not only guides guests but also enhances their confidence in your ability to provide a welcoming and accommodating atmosphere.


Signage posted at the main entrance as well as individual attractions or experiences within your venue—especially those with loud sounds or strobe lighting—will educate guests with sensory impairments before they reach the point of no return.  

3. Train Your Staff

Train your staff to be sensitive to the needs of visitors with sensory concerns. Provide them with the tools they need to handle different situations, such as offering assistance, providing information, or recognizing signs of discomfort. Empathy and understanding should be at the forefront of staff training.

4. Provide Quiet Spaces

Designate areas where attendees can retreat from noise and stimulation if they become overwhelmed. These spaces should be calm and quiet, with comfortable seating.

5. Adjust Lighting

Ensure that lighting is adjustable to accommodate attendees who may be sensitive to bright or flickering lights. Natural lighting or soft, dimmable lights are preferable.

6. Minimize Strong Smells

Avoid strong scents such as perfumes, candles, or air fresheners that could trigger sensitivities in attendees.

7. Offer Sensory-Friendly Seating

Provide a variety of seating options that accommodate different sensory needs, such as padded chairs or bean bags.

8. Designate Sensory-Friendly Days or Time Slots

Being inclusive doesn’t have to mean you never host events with loud music or intense effect. 


Simply offering a specific day or time slot designated as "Sensory-Friendly Hours" can get the job done. During these designated times only, you can turn the lights up, turn down the music, and even remove some elements of your event that might be overstimulating or too intense for those with sensory concerns.


This accommodation not only caters to guests with sensory impairments but also appeals to families with young children. It's a win-win strategy for broadening your audience base and ensuring everyone can enjoy your event.

9. Provide Sensory Kits

Sensory kits can help equip guests with tools to manage the amount of stimulation they experience while at your event. These kits could include items like noise-canceling headphones, fidget toys, or sunglasses. 


It’s also a good idea to provide materials such as event programs or schedules in alternative formats like large print, Braille, or audio versions (or a digital version which can be read with an audio app).

10. Consider Food Sensitivities

If you’re serving food at your event, make sure to clearly label ingredients to accommodate attendees with dietary restrictions or sensitivities. This isn’t just helpful for those with sensory concerns, but for anyone with food allergies, those following special diets, or anyone who just wants to be better informed about the foods they’re eating. It’s great if you can also provide a variety of food options, including allergen-friendly choices.  

Final Thoughts

Creating a sensory-friendly or autism-friendly event presents unique challenges. However, it also opens up opportunities to reach a broader audience and make your events more inclusive. By implementing sensory-friendly measures, offering clear information, and training your staff, you can ensure that everyone can enjoy themselves. 

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