Multicultural News

Sensory-friendly map created to make Indiana State Fair more inclusive

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana State Fair for the first time has partnered with Damar Services to offer a Sensory Friendly Trail Map of the fair to help people who have a higher chance of experiencing sensory overload.

With all of the rides and games, all the sounds at the fair can be overwhelming and force many families to just not bring their kids. That’s the reason for the sensory friendly map to help guide people to specialized places when kids feel a little overwhelmed.

The Butler family, with the two children Patrick and Molly, try as do many Hoosiers to make the most of the annual fair. The Butler family missed the fair last year when it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic and wanted to make a stop this go-around. They picked the middle of the week for a reason.

“The weather is nice, too, and we were hoping for smaller crowds again because on the weekends it can be a little too crowded for us here at the fair,” Melissa Butler said.

Sensory overload can be a major problem for some families, so the map shows about 20 places, from outdoor play areas to animal exhibits and even quiet indoor experiences.

“The extra lights, the extra sound, the extra food smells, all the extra people, that can be a lot for somebody who is not conditioned to have those experiences,” said Jenny Peters-Reece, chief strategy officer with Damar.

At information booths around the fair, a handful of sensory bags were packed with goods including sunglasses, earbuds and activity books.

“We’re opening doors for families who would have self-selected to just stay home because the environment wasn’t conducive to what their family needed,” Peters-Reece said.

The Butlers said even things like restroom hand dryers can be a scary, so it’s great to see a conscious effort be made to create a more inclusive space for the kids and even the parents.

“Shady spot for the parents to sit, that’s always nice.”


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