When it comes to creating an inclusive environment for people of all abilities at sports venues, KultureCity is leading the way.
The non-profit organisation seeks to create an all-inclusive environment for people with autism, and has partnered with a number of professional sports teams to make sure that fans with so-called ‘invisible disabilities’ are able to experience events as fully as any other spectator.
KultureCity’s sensory inclusion initiative provides training and tools to venues so they can enhance the guest experience for those with sensory needs like PTSD and autism. The peer-reviewed, medically-published initiative was launched two years ago and now extends to over 60 venues across the US – including 17 NBA basketball facilities.
“It involves training by medical professionals, sensory bags and in some cases the designing and provision of sensory quiet spaces within the venues,” KultureCity’s managing director and co-founder Julian Maha told TheStadiumBusiness.com.
“It is about raising awareness but also taking that awareness into action. To help those that are not affected by this, to understand that even though they might not have a personal involvement in disabilities, they are potentially indirectly affected by it.”
Maha stresses that inclusion, and not just accommodation, is at the heart of KultureCity’s initiative. “It is a fine line,” he said. “That is why working with KultureCity is essential. If you get it wrong the result could be isolation vs inclusion. For instance, while creating a quiet space is applaudable, making it resemble a therapeutic sensory room would go against the message of inclusion as it is too close to what the individual normally experiences in a hospital setting.”
In March 2017, NBA team the Cleveland Cavaliers became one of the first major sports franchises to partner with KultureCity. The team’s Quicken Loans Arena has been certified as ‘sensory inclusive’, with a new first-of-its-kind sensory room having been introduced. Staff at the arena have also been trained by KultureCity so they can better interact with guests that have ‘invisible’ disabilities.
Maha said: “The Cleveland Cavaliers organisation, particularly (senior director of guest experience) Patrick Scanlon and (senior vice-president of facility operations) Antony Bonavita, have been amazing. They not only embraced the program but have also been our biggest ambassadors for the initiative throughout the NBA.”
On the need for teams to be more sensory-inclusive as opposed to just sensory-friendly, Maha added: “I think the progress has been quick. The differences are clear in that sensory-inclusive creates the daily accessibility that we all want and desire whereas sensory-friendly limits it to a particular event and time and place. Inclusion and acceptance only happens when there is daily accessibility.”
KultureCity, whose partnerships reach as far afield as Australia, can be contacted through support@Kulturecity.org.