Sports is integral to society. It's one way we interact with each other, learn from one another and from ourselves, and for many it's a pastime to watch and even participate in. But it's inaccessible for many in our community, especially children who are at the age where socializing and physical activity are important for development of mind and body. These are four teams who are changing that.
The California Storm are a semi-professional women's soccer team located in Sacramento and are our first partners for our autism soccer clinics, a program that we've started in Sacramento and hopefully will spread to our other regions. They're making it a priority to ensure all fans and all community members have access to their sport, and partnering with them and lending out expertise has been an honor.
And although they aren't professional, the amount of love and time they give to their community is showing sports clubs all across the world that no matter your size, fan base, or budget, everyone can play their part in making the sports world less ableist and more inclusive.
Philadelphia Eagles' Autism Challenge
Today, millions of people around the world are connected to autism. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 44 people under 21 living in the United States are on the autism spectrum, making it the fastest-growing developmental disorder. For Eagles owner and CEO Jeffrey Lurie, it is personal. With autism in his own family, Lurie knows his is just one of many families dealing with this condition and has seen firsthand the difference the right resources can make.
Enter the Eagles Autism Challenge.
The Eagles Autism Challenge is dedicated to raising funds for innovative research and care programs. They aren't raising money for a cure, just to help fund the necessary resources that doctors and scientists at leading institutions need to assist those currently affected by autism as well as future generations. They do so by holding annual walks, 5Ks, marathons, and sensory walks that not only raise funds but also awareness, and help engage the community and bring people together.
In partnership with KultureCity, a leading non-profit recognized worldwide for using its resources to revolutionize and effect change in the community for those with sensory needs, the Eagles also have ensured their stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, is accessible and their staff are trained and certified in understanding the sensory needs of neurodivergent fans. The sensory inclusive certification process entailed training for Eagles employees and Lincoln Financial Field staff by leading medical professionals. It included how to recognize guests with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation. Sensory bags equipped with noise-cancelling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards and weighted lap pads are made available to all guests as part of their experience. The 500-square-foot, state-of-the-art sensory room has been carefully designed by top medical professionals to ensure a quieter and more secure environment. They're leading the charge in the NFL for making the sport and sports in general more accessible.
Columbus Crew x Kulture City
Columbus Crew SC today announced on World Autism Awareness Day in 2021 a community partnership with KultureCity to make New Crew Stadium and all of the programs and events to be hosted at the stadium sensory inclusive. This new initiative will promote an accommodating and positive experience for all guests and fans with a sensory issue that visit New Crew Stadium.
In addition to New Crew Stadium providing accommodations, Historic Crew Stadium will also provide some accommodations for guests and fans with sensory needs beginning with Crew SC’s home match against Real Esteli FC in the Round of 16 of the 2021 Concacaf Champions League on April 15.
Staff members at Historic Crew Stadium and New Crew Stadium are now certified on how to recognize guests and fans with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation. Sensory bags, equipped with noise canceling headphones (provided by Puro Sound Labs), fidget tools, verbal cue cards and weighted lap pads will also be available to all guests at Historic Crew Stadium and New Crew Stadium who may feel overwhelmed by the environment. These fans will also be able to utilize a dedicated sensory room designed by medical professionals for those who may need a quieter and more secure environment.
Prior to attending an event, families can download the free KultureCity App where one can view what sensory features are available and where they can access them. Within the application is the Social Story, which will provide a preview of what to expect while enjoying an event at New Crew Stadium.
“Our new community partnership with KultureCity grants us the opportunity to provide our supporters with an inclusive environment that allows them to enjoy the matchday experience to the fullest, while being sensitive to their needs,” said Crew SC President & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Our goal is to ensure that all Crew supporters feel comfortable at our home matches and can focus not only on the field of play but can take in all of the sights and sounds beyond the white lines in and around the stadium. As we continue to evolve as a Club built for the community, it is important to provide a setting that is inclusive and welcoming for all of our members.”
Sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by individuals 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 is an enormous part of the environment in a venue like New Crew Stadium. With its new certification, the Crew’s new home will be prepared to assist guests with sensory sensitivities in having the most comfortable and accommodating experience possible when attending any matches or events.
What started out as an innocent tweet from a father who was excited that he could share his football team with his son snowballed into football clubs all across Europe also making inclusive adjustments to their historic and beloved stadiums.
Arsenal's website: "The facility incorporates a match viewing room that offers a full, unrestricted view of the pitch behind soundproof glass, creating a safe and controlled environment to watch the game, there is also a separate Sensory space with a range of specialist equipment to assist those attending the room.
The Sensory Room is available for fixtures at the Emirates Stadium, subject to availability. Please contact our Disability Liaison Team by submitting a query via our Enquiry Form or calling the team on 020 7619 5000 Option 2.
On non-matchdays the facility is also used by Arsenal in the Community for local schools and clubs. You can contact Luke Howard from Arsenal in the Community for more information."