Last month, Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum became the first NBA arena to offer sensory rooms for guests with sensory processing needs. These rooms, like other sensory-inclusive accommodations, provide a quiet and calming environment with different lighting, different stimulants (toys, textures, and books), and noise-canceling headphones. For people with autism, dementia, PTSD, and similar conditions (and for their families), sensory rooms are a literal and much-needed safe space.
More sensory-friendly accommodations are sure to come in the future, but a handful already exist in Milwaukee’s sports and entertainment landscape. Here are eight examples.
Guests can find the arena’s sensory rooms in the lower bowl by Section 110, and in the upper bowl by Section 212. Each room contains “soothing paint tones, tactile wall hangings, and comfortable furniture.” In addition to the rooms themselves, guests can pick up “sensory bags” at the guest concierge desks near Sections 109 and 212; BMO Club guests can pick them up at the BMO Club coat check. Noise-canceling headphones and fidget tools are also available.
According to Fiserv Forum, “more than 800 of Fiserv Forum’s event staff members have received training on how to recognize and assist fans with sensory needs. As a result of its sensory inclusive program, Fiserv Forum has become the first sports and entertainment venue in Wisconsin to be certified as sensory inclusive by KultureCity, a leading non-profit recognized nationwide for using its resources to revolutionize and effect change in the community for those with sensory needs.”
In October, Milwaukee Public Museum became one of the first museums to offer a dedicated sensory room. Located on the first floor, the “controlled environment to regulate emotions or behaviors” features “lights and sounds [that] are adjustable, and there are elements such as fiber optic light strands, bubble tube, fidget toys, and books to enhance a visitor’s experience in the space.”
Dawn Koceja, accessibility coordinator for MPM, says the museum began focusing on accessibility initiatives about four years ago. Other accommodations include sign language interpreters and object handling and multi-sensory interactions.
For the past few seasons, Milwaukee Ballet has staged a sensory-friendly production of The Nutcracker. This special show features general seating, house lighting, an adjusted runtime, recorded music (for a more controlled volume), and other considerations. This year’s show is set for Friday, December 13, at 6 p.m. In 2020, the Ballet is also staging a sensory-friendly production of Peter Pan on Sunday, May 10.
Similar to Milwaukee Ballet, First Stage Children’s Theater stages several sensory-friendly productions throughout the year. The Snowy Day And Other Stories is set for Saturday, January 25, 2020; Gretel! is set for Saturday, March 7, 2020. Both shows will feature relaxed house rules, smaller audience sizes, reduced noise, a limited number of sensory-friendly fidget kits, and more.
For a few Sundays every year, Discovery World opens at 8 a.m. for guests with sensory needs. Certain exhibits are altered or closed, and “organizations specializing in sensory disorders will be in attendance to provide resources for your family.” “Sensory Friendly Sundays” are free. (The general public is admitted at 10 a.m., after which all exhibits are open.) The next event is scheduled for January 12, 2020.
Milwaukee-area Marcus Theatres offer a number of sensory-friendly screenings. Dubbed “Reel Movies for Real Needs,” these screenings create a “welcoming and comfortable environment—lower sound, lights up—where families with children who need accommodations will be able to share the experience of seeing family friendly films at a theatre.” Find a list of films and participating locations HERE.
Milwaukee-area AMC Theatres offer similar screenings (lights up, sound down) on the second and fourth Saturday (family-friendly) and Tuesday night (mature audiences) of every month. Find a list of films and participating locations HERE.
“We realize that the Chuck E. experience can be very stimulating for any child, so our mission is to create an event that allows ALL kids to be a kid.” Truer words have never been spoken. On the first Sunday of every month (at participating locations), the house that Chuck E. built opens two hours early for guests with sensory needs. Reduced lighting and noise, food and games, and trained staff members are featured. In Wisconsin, the Brookfield, Racine, and Green Bay Chuck E. Cheese locations participate in “Sensory Sensitive Sundays.”
While Miller Park does not have a dedicated quiet/sensory room, one can be made available by contacting an event staff member or guest relations at sections 116, 221, or 418.