Tag Archives: friendly

Museum day

So this sunday I went to the Franklin Institute. I greatly enjoy museums, and a friend of mine had found a leaflet from the museum proclaiming “Sensory-Friendly Sundays.”

The description on the front says, “The Franklin Institute is proud to welcome families, adults, and groups with members on the autism spectrum to Sensory-Friendly Sunday, a day to enjoy the museum in your own way and in your own time. All are welcome!”

I’ll repeat on bit here: “a day to enjoy the museum.”

It only occurs one Sunday every two months, which I thought was kind of dismal, but I was also heartened that they were having sensory-friendly days at all, and I wanted to try it. So on one of the days listed, we went.

Well, we got there in the early afternoon and started poking around. We didn’t see much different about it but weren’t too concerned about that as it was being an enjoyable time. There were various enjoyable things to look at and interact with and it was going fairly well.

Until we got to the electricity section. Then it all went horribly, horribly wrong. It turns out that on the ceiling in the middle of the electricity exhibit there is a fairly large tesla coil. A tesla coil that goes off incredibly loudly, with no warning whatsoever.

We were there in the room, looking at an exhibit, when an incredibly loud, deeply painful ROAR occurred. Nothing was going wrong or was broken (as I first thought must have been happening). Nope, apparently that is just part of the exhibit. No signs warning us of it (at least that I saw), no announcement or notice ahead of time, just a sudden, horrible noise.

Honestly, that pretty much took everything out of me. Once I could feel my limbs again I left the room. And I tried to keep doing the museum, I really did. I didn’t want that to destroy the day. But honestly, I just couldn’t. It had taken too much out of me. It had been too painful. It was not long after that I realized I really had to leave.

Which, of course, brought up the question – what happened to this sensory-friendly day the museum was supposed to be having? A loud, painful noise given without any warning whatsoever, so that no one in the vicinity has a choice whether to be subjected to it or not, is extremely far from sensory-friendly. I would call it downright sensory UNfriendly. Maybe a sensory onslaught.

Before we left we went back into the ticketing area and looked for another copy of the leaflet to look at. A task which proved somewhat difficult, but we eventually found one. Turned out carefully looking over it and reading all the details on the back gave some critical extra information. “Specially adapted exhibits throughout the museum from 8:00 am-12:30pm” (emphasis mine). Now, I will grant you that it is my own fault for not reading the fine print. However, I do not think it’s my own fault for thinking that “day” (as mentioned in their description) actually means “day” rather than simply “morning.” But apparently when they say “day” they mean “morning” and personally, I think I’m justified in being unhappy at their word choice. I find it disingenuous.

Even for an autistic adult there is aftermath to such an event (and if it had happened when I was a child, I can only imagine the meltdown that likely would have resulted). Somehow my friend and I made it back to their apartment despite the fact that I was shutting down and finding it increasingly difficult to walk. I wound up collapsed on my friend’s bed, wearing their noise-cancelling headphones, for I don’t even know how long as I slowly, gradually, came out of my shutdown and became able to deal with the general noise and chaos of the world again.

I also want to mention what my friend was pointing out – while that noise was particularly bad for anyone with sensory difficulties, even neurotypicals would find it bad. As they put it, “It’s just really fucking loud and completely without warning. Most people don’t go to the museum to have the crap scared out of them.”

I am extremely unhappy with the Franklin Institute and think what they did, what they are doing, in the electricity exhibit is wrong on multiple levels. Is it really so impossible for those already rare sensory friendly days to actually be, you know, a whole DAY? Is there no reason they cannot give warning when they are about to assault their guests’ senses so we can opt out if we choose?

This was not ok.

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Filed under issue, rant

I have a business idea

Though honestly, I do not believe I will ever actually do it. I like to believe I could do it if I had help, but I do not see myself as capable of doing the whole thing on my own.

That said, I am excited about my idea so at the very least, I want to share it to see if other people think that it is nifty too.

It all started a little while ago when I was trying to shop for a keyboard. I wanted to try them in person because the amount of noise the keyboard I use makes is a huge issue for me. The entire experience was overwhelming. Loud music, confusing store layouts, echoey sounds, visual confusion, and I realized that shopping is always like this. It seems that sensory friendly stores just do not exist.

Which became my idea. A sensory friendly store! I want to be able to offer people a sensory-friendly shopping experience so that shopping can be as low stress as possible. I have a number of things I would want to make sure are included:

  • no background music
  • carpet and sound dampening tiles around to reduce noise and echoes
  • a simple layout to make navigating easy
  • a smooth ceiling with recessed lights so that it is visually easy to distinguish overhead signs from background
  • no fluorescents! This store would have lights that do not flicker.
  • Small time-out rooms with sensory friendly furniture and lights that can be turned off, in case people need a break.

I don’t think I would want it to be specifically for selling sensory-friendly items – it would be a more general store than that. However, I do think I would want to make a point to sell sensory-friendly items. Things like sensory furniture, weighted vests, compression clothing, etc. If I sold clothing, I have split ideas for how to organize it. I think that I would not want to organize the “normal” way, with juniors, misses, women’s, etc. I think I would like to organize either by fabric type or by color. Fabric type because many people have specific needs for what they can deal with wearing. For instance, I almost exclusively wear soft knits. If a store had a “soft knit” section where I could find shirts, pants, capris, skirts, dresses, etc, I would spend lots of time there! The color idea was more to emulate some thrift stores that organize their clothes by color first and size second. Want a black shirt? Just go to the black shirt section! This is good for people who wear very limited color choices – which happens to also be a group I fall into.

So in a nutshell, that is the idea. To bring people a shopping experience that they do not get elsewhere. An experience that will hopefully never leave anyone dropping everything they have and running out of the store because they just cannot handle being in there anymore.

So what do you think? If a store like that existed, would you shop there?


Filed under ponder

Sensory Friendly

Sorry about missing last week, everyone. My life has been kind of weird.

For today, just a short thing regarding some cool stuff people are doing.  Basically, there are a few theaters out there who have begun showing sensory/autism friendly screenings of some movies or plays, specifically to cater to people or children on the spectrum.  Honestly, I think this is pretty nifty.

AMC Theaters have started having sensory-friendly screenings once a month at quite a few of their theaters. They keep the lights higher than usual, the sound lower than usual, and they lift their usual “silence is golden” policy, so it’s ok if children can’t stay silent.

The Theater Development Fund (TDF) has been working to increase theater accessibility for a while now, and recently started having autism friendly shows. They also are being careful about sound and light levels.

Over in the UK/Ireland, Odeon Cinemas are doing the same thing.

Overall, I give my commendations to these three groups, and any others I haven’t encountered yet that are doing the same thing.

Of course, this being my blog, and given one of the reasons I started this blog, I can’t let this go without at least a little bit of further commentary. It’s not always clear as to whether these shows are for anyone on the autism spectrum regardless of age, or only for children on the spectrum and their parents/family’s. It would be disappointing to me if adults were excluded. While I am capable of going to movies and such (which means these things perhaps aren’t for me anyway), it is a stressful and challenging experience that I can only do when I’m feeling up for it. The idea of going to a movie where I won’t have to deal with quite so much sensory bombardment is quite appealing to me. I intend to contact AMC theaters to see what they have to say on the matter. If they get back to me, I will post an update to let you all know.

Still, overall I want to say that this is a step in the right direction, and hopefully we will see more steps forward in the future.

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Filed under ramble