Business, Central New York, Sports

Sensory Safety Kits Come to Syracuse

Syracuse's Carrier Dome has a new plan to help people with sensory disabilities enjoy sports and live events at the stadium. NCC's Stephen Armstrong reports on the new equipment visitors can expect to find at the dome:

By Stephen Armstrong SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS) –  Sometimes a person’s disability is easy to spot because of the equipment they use such as a cane or wheel-chair.

On the other hand, someone with a sensory or cognitive disability might not be so visible.

This kind of disability might not limit someone from getting around, but it often limits how they can participate in activities.

If you have a traumatic brain injury, you might be sensitive to light and have difficulty working in a brightly lit office.

If you have dementia, you might have difficulty navigating a new environment and lose your way easily.

If you have Autistic Spectrum Disorder, you might have difficulty with verbal communication, and find it hard to ask questions and engage with others.

Now imagine trying to attend a sports event or concert if you have that kind of disability.

Bright lights, loud noises, crowds – things that might seem mundane to the average fan can present a big challenge to someone with a sensory or cognitive disability.

That prompted one organization to develop a kit which can increase access for people with a range of disabilities.

Life is Washable, Inc. in Endicott provides workshops for individuals and families with special needs.

Executive Director, Jennifer O’Brien, said she saw a need to help people with sensory disabilities, as well as their families engage with events.

The company worked with their alumni, who have disabilities, to design and put together a kit which addresses a range of needs.

The kit includes noise reducing ear covers, antiglare glasses, a communication card, an identification wristband, a venue map and a fidget toy.

O’Brien approached the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation, and it provided funding to bring those kits into Syracuse’s Carrier Dome.

The kits are available at Guest Services as a no-cost loan to anyone attending an event.

Angela Sager came to the Carrier Dome to see a basketball game with her family, and her son Elijah who has Autism.

“Sometimes the noise is really loud for him,” Sager said, “So the headphones really help.”

Sager said other items in the kit, like the venue map and the anti-glare glasses, make the environment less stressful for Elijah.

“Since it came out,” Sager said, “We are able to attend events we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to.”

National teams are now taking an interest in the sensory safety kits, and O’Brien plans to expand  production.

In fact, she’s hoping to employ 25 people with disabilities to make the kits.

O’Brien says that aspect is particularly important, as the project isn’t just helping people with disabilities engage with events, it’s also providing meaningful jobs.

“It’s not just rewarding for them,” O’Brien said. “It’s rewarding for us because goals are not just things that you check off, it’s things that you live.”