Premier League club Arsenal and Championship outfit Swansea City have introduced sensory hours in their club shops dedicated to supporters with autism and other disabilities.
The Gunners kicked off the new scheme in line with their 2019/20 kit launch, reserving an hour in the shop on release day to give all supporters the chance to experience what turned out to be a popular occasion.
Every summer Arsenal put on a show to promote their new look and this year was no different. They had a live DJ, football freestyler acts and club legends vising throughout the day, attracting crowds in their thousands. This can be overwhelming for people with autism, who were able to absorb the new kit in themselves at a quieter time during a ‘sensory hour’.
Arsenal in the Community’s disability officer, Luke Howard, spoke to the club’s website:
“It is a privilege to be involved in Arsenal’s continued commitment to supporting autistic individuals and their families.
“To see first-hand the club’s sustained determination to be more accessible and be true to the Arsenal For Everyone message is fantastic.
“Hopefully days like today can be used as a springboard to keep accessibility at the front of discussions and ensure that all of our supporters can enjoy huge days such as this.” (arsenal.com)
Whilst Arsenal will dedicate an hour-long monthly slot to sensory hour, Swansea City will schedule hours weekly, every Thursday between 5-6pm.
What happens during sensory hour?
As the quiet hour takes place, lights will be dimmed, music and television screens will be turned off and background noise will be reduced.
Clear signposting around the shop is introduced, as well as further disability training for staff members.
Speaking to Level Playing Field, Swansea City Disabled Supporters Association Chair, Andrew Brayley, said:
“The DSA were very pleased to offer in conjunction with the Club a quiet hour shopping in the Club Shop for DSA members following the launch of next seasons kit.
The hour was after normal opening hours and allowed people to browse and purchase with no crowds and the lights, music or TV’s switched. The Club staff were also at hand to help.
The event proved very successful particularly with those who struggle with crowds and loud noises and we are very excited that the Quiet Hour shopping will now become a regular event throughout the season.”
Wolverhampton Wanderers will also dedicate a weekly slot to ‘Autism hour’ in their mega store.
Laura Wright, Wolves Disability Access Officer, told Level Playing Field:
“Wolves first engaged in Autism Hour at the Mega Store due to the high demand in shoppers and feedback from fans asking what strategies we had in place for those with sensory issues. By linking in with Autism awareness week, the Club launched Autism Hour in the club shop giving people the chance to come to the shop where lights are low, music is turned off and the TV screens are monotone.
We understand the need for certain supporters to visit the Mega Store at times when it is quieter and less interactive. We want every member of the Pack to feel included in what Wolves can offer. This is One Pack and everyone is welcome.”
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