Ohio State Fair sets aside time for people with autism

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Ohio State Fair will turn down the lights and noise July 31 to help make the fair more enjoyable for people who have special sensory needs such as autism.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., everything from parking to waiting in line for rides will be more accessible.

Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI) executive director Shawn Henry says this is a first of its kind experience, and he hopes it serves as a model for more fairs, festivals and other community events across the state.

“I really think that the Ohio State Fair is blazing a trail,” Henry said. “The fair is probably going to be accessible fairs in the entire country.”

Henry says fair visitors could ride the rides with no flashing lights or music, and if they need to take a break, they can in get one in the OCALI Quiet Room, an air-conditioned space with a variety of low-tech and mid-tech activities to support sensory needs.

“If you are overwhelmed and need a break, you can go in the quiet room,” Henry added. “We’ll have fidgets and other items just to make the environment something that’s inviting, that’s relaxing, then, you can go back out and enjoy other activities.”

OCALI has also provided a social narrative for families to go over before heading to the fair.

The Ohio State Fair runs from July 24 to Aug. 4.