MLB team unveils league’s first sensory room
Story by Matt Brady
Illustration by Alison Baionno
A right field suite nestled inside of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is a great spot for anyone to take in an Athletics ballgame.
And now, for people with autism or other sensory processing disorders, it’s the ideal place to experience a baseball game.
The Oakland Athletics, often referred to as the A’s, have added an all-inclusive sensory room in one of its right field suites, ensuring that everyone can have the best possible experience at the ballpark, according to A’s Chief Operating Officer, Chris Giles.
“Our mindset as an industry is to be as inclusive as possible,” Giles said. “Some people love the noise aspect, but for others, the experience is impossible to enjoy.”
That’s why Giles and the A’s added the sensory room. It is equipped as a quiet space with beanbag chairs, sensory bags with noise-canceling headphones and of course, a great view of the game.
Sensory bags are an activity to stimulate one’s senses, e.g. touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight, and hearing.
“People who use that space are over the moon,” Giles said. “We are just really happy that we can accommodate their needs.”
Curtis Pride played 13 seasons in the big leagues as an outfielder. As a deaf baseball player, he has invested interest in the sport’s accessibility and inclusiveness and now serves as MLB’s Ambassador for Inclusion. He said the sensory room benefits fans of all ages with autism, down syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder and dementia.
“It is great that all MLB clubs are recognizing the importance of including all fans with disabilities and are creating programs or accommodations such as a sensory room,” Pride said. “I anticipate at some point in the near future that all MLB ballparks will be sensory-inclusive.”
Giles said that currently, four to five families use the suite per game. As more people learn about the suite, people who weren’t comfortable coming to the stadium before will now feel encouraged to go.
Pride, who had one of the best views from on the field, as a player, for over 13 seasons, is happy that anyone can have a great time at the ballpark, and, with enjoyable seats.
“I am proud to say that MLB has become more inclusive for everyone, especially people with disabilities, so they can enjoy the game as much as anyone else,” Pride said.
One of the best parts of the suite is that it isn’t just in some seats at the very top of the stands. This is a premiere suite that was retrofitted and adapted to serve families and people with sensory conditions.
The A’s are one of the leaders in MLB when it comes to inclusion. On top of its new sensory room, the team also hosts an annual Autism Awareness Day each season.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, Alison came to Phoenix in 2016. After graduating with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Temple University, Alison pursued her career as a recreational therapist at Ability360. With a love for leisure and recreation, Alison enjoys hiking, painting, drawing, and making people smile any chance she can.
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