Fun for all – sensory spaces – in airports and other public places
Fun for all – sensory spaces
For those with sensory processing disorders it can be difficult to transition back to air travel.
These ‘hidden disabilities’ often lead to greater anxiety and discomfort when going through the airport or while on a plane, as airport staff is unaware of what the person may be experiencing.
United Kingdom – Bristol, Gatwick and Lehigh Valley International Airport
Gatwick Airport’s installation of a sensory space in 2018 opened the public’s mind. The air travel industry realized the social benefits of making travel more accessible to those with disabilities, whether hidden or overt.
Bristol Airport and Lehigh Valley International Airport were early adopters of this idea, and Fun and Function worked to create sensory spaces at both airports.
Fun and Function is still working closely with both airports to see how they can create a curb-to-gate experience that engages passengers with sensory needs. Travelers and airports are both reporting that security is the biggest pain point for passengers with hidden disabilities, in the best of times.
Fun and Function offers tools, training and tracking to empower airport staff and create an infrastructure around sensory supports. Given the new rules in place at many airports, parallel measures must be taken to provide additional support.
Each and every one of Fun and Function’s products reflects a deeper understanding of autism. Aviva Weiss, Founder and CEO, is intimately involved with the company’s product development. She says: “Our everyday existence is predicated on communication with our families. That’s how we get better at serving them. We’re constantly getting feedback about their needs, wants, challenges and concerns. Our products work for people with autism, because they’re created based on feedback from people who live with autism.”
“We started Fun and Function because we couldn’t find kid-friendly sensory tools that would fit our family’s needs. So we channeled our frustration and turned it into a passion for creating the best sensory toys and tools on the planet.”Aviva Weiss, founder and CEO Fun and Function
Sensory Travel Kit for children
Chewies are really popular among many kids with sensory needs, but some parents told us that their kids preferred chewing their sleeves or collars. So we created our Bite Bands – they’re basically chewies made of fabric.
Our weighted compression vests are super popular. Our customers shared feedback that sounded contradictory – they wanted a really tight fit, and they wanted the vest to grow with their kids.
We experimented and designed a supremely expandable vest, with strategic hook-and-loop placement that allows for a just-right fit for kids of many sizes. Small adjustments can take a product from a nice idea to an essential.
Our Hug Tees are super fitted compression shirts, and our customers loved them. But they wanted the compression around the hips too, so we redesigned them to be extra long.”
From tired and overwhelmed to energized and happy
Recently, one major airport spent a good deal of time developing a business case for a sensory space, and surveyed travelers in their airport. More than 70% of travelers said they’d be more likely to opt for an airport equipped with a sensory space.
In the course of their research, as part of their Neurodiversity Week celebrations, Fun and Function installed a temporary sensory space in the airport. Groups of children, both typically developing and those with special needs, came to visit the space.
The airport team could see the impact of a sensory break. They saw how satisfying it was to the children. Children could come, engage, and leave refreshed. Even the children were surveyed. The sensory space helped children shift their feelings from tired to energized and sad to happy. It was eye-opening for the airport personnel.
Staff training and inclusive spaces
Navigating air travel can be anxiety-inducing for many. Concerns brought on by the current extended pandemic have added another dimension to the stress involved for many travelers.
Additional training for airport and airline personnel, some simple changes in the way distancing regulations are enforced, and inclusive spaces for people struggling with sensory processing disorders have and will continue to go a long way toward making travel accessible and enjoyable for everyone.