Watford FC Score Sensory First with Experia
Experia has installed a state-of-the-art sensory room at Watford Football Club, kicking off a new partnership that is focussed on providing dedicated sensory areas at every Premier League football club in the country.
The Shippey Campaign is an initiative set up by Kate and Pete Shippey, who in 2014 tried to take their eldest son Nathan to a football match. Unfortunately, due to the loud noise and crowds, he was unable to stay for the whole match and the family went home early. The Shippeys were determined to do something to enable people with hidden disabilities such autism to attend football matches like the hundreds of thousands of other people who go on a regular basis, and the idea of sensory rooms at football stadiums was born.
Watford FC became the first club in the South of England to install a sensory room and the first to benefit from the partnership, and it is hoped that the lead taken by the English Premier League will encourage other clubs from all leagues, plus other sports and entertainment venues across the country to follow suit and provide similar inclusive facilities.
The sensory room will enable children with a range of abilities to enjoy football matches in a specially designed safe environment and is part of a series of measures introduced by Watford FC to improve disability access and facilities. Experia's calming sensory room provides a respite area for people with autism spectrum disorders to go and relax when the atmosphere gets too overwhelming.
The room at Vicarage Road features a comfortably furnished viewing area, with an excellent view of the action and a de-escalation area featuring a bubble tube, fibre-optic carpet, a fibre-optic softie, rotating wall projections and a mirror-ball with colour wheel. All the equipment is low maintenance and simple to use - just switch it on and users can escape to a soothing world of slowly colour changing lights, images and the sound of the water in the otherwise silent bubble tube. The room also incorporates a Bluetooth speaker system so that visitors can choose their own relaxing music if the game becomes too noisy or distressing for their child.
To assist visitors, the room will be managed by fully-trained staff with a background in working with children on the autism spectrum.
Experia designed and installed the purpose-built sensory equipment and the room was opened in time for the first visitors to see Watford beat Everton 3-2.
Theo Canter, the six year-old son of season ticket holder Andrew, had so far been unable to enjoy matches with his Dad and older sister Ruby. Theo and his family became the first Watford fans to use the room at the recent match against Everton. Andrew said:
"We are so delighted that the Watford FC sensory room is now a reality. We have been incredibly impressed by the club's receptiveness and dedication in ensuring these facilities have been made available. The sensory room will make a huge difference to Theo and we look forward to coming along to more matches."
Local special schools, who have been involved in the design phase of the project, will be invited to attend coming matches and it is hoped that demand from Watford fans who are currently unable to bring children as a result of their needs will also be able to benefit.
Dave Messenger, Watford FC Supporter Liaison Officer, said:
"Watford FC prides itself on having a proud family tradition and the sensory room is an important part in ensuring that our supporters have access to the latest facilities. The reaction from those using the room has been overwhelmingly positive and we’ve had numerous requests and bookings for games across the rest of the season."