Sensory-Friendly Sundays debut at National Constitution Center

2 minute read
The US National Constitution Center ushers in new sensory-friendly programming. (Photo courtesy of NCC.)
The US National Constitution Center ushers in new sensory-friendly programming. (Photo courtesy of NCC.)

If you’ve wanted to visit the US Constitution Center but have sensory sensitivities—or a child with sensory sensitivities—and were concerned with the environment, you now have specially designed opportunities to explore the Center.

Sensory-Friendly Sundays will provide visitors with sensory-processing challenges the opportunity to experience the museum in a secure and comfortable environment by providing emotionally safe spaces for families, modified programming for diverse sensory needs, and specialized staff training.

Balancing multimedia

More and more history and culture museums use multimedia elements in their exhibits: screens with video clips, audio recordings coming out of speakers, even gaming elements. While multimedia museums can be especially engaging for young people, they can make museums an overwhelming, off-putting experience for people with autism and/or sensory sensitivities.

Currently, the CDC cites that 1 in 68 children is being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)—which means that more families are adapting to lives in which noise, crowds and visual stimulation can create distress. (To try and imagine what life with sensory sensitivity is like, check out this video.) For many families, this means avoiding places like shopping malls, sports events, and many museums.

Fortunately, the majority of arts and culture venues in the Philadelphia area (as are many across the country) are becoming more conscious of the needs of visitors with different kinds of disabilities and actively taking steps to ensure that people with sensory sensitivities and their families can enjoy the experience of coming to a museum.

Creating inclusive learning experiences

“At the National Constitution Center, we are committed to creating an inclusive space for all learners to feel welcome and be able to experience the important lessons about the foundation of our nation and the role the US Constitution plays in their lives,” says Kerry Sautner, chief learning officer at the National Constitution Center. “Making the Constitution accessible to all Americans is at the heart of our mission, and we look forward to providing each of our visitors with an enriching experience through our programming, exhibits, and environment.”

The first Sensory-Friendly Sunday will be March 24. Kristina Marinello, director of visitor experience, explains that Center staff have been trained through Art-Reach, a Philadelphia organization that works to make the arts accessible for all people and to better understand the needs of people with sensory sensitivities.

Marinello emphasizes that in addition to Sensory-Friendly Sundays, visitors with disabilities and/or caretakers can contact her anytime to prepare for a visit to the Center. Accessibility at the Center includes free sign-language interpretation, a Braille copy of the Constitution, and open captioning on all videos.

Sensory-Friendly Sunday dates for 2019 are March 24, June 23, August 25, and December 8. Dates for 2019 have been selected with consideration for other sensory-friendly programming in the city.

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