The NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City has made modifications to its store so that it’s more friendly to people with autism, PTSD, and other sensory disabilities. The store did so with the help of KultureCity, an organization that aims to create “create acceptance and inclusion for all individuals” with kinds of disabilities.
The location has been outfitted with a quiet space where people who are overwhelmed by the crowds and sensory overload can escape for a moment of peace. Beyond that, members of the staff hand out what are called “sensory bags.” Each one is equipped with noise-canceling headphones, fidget devices, and an iPad to facilitate easier communication.Staff in the store are also trained to look for the signs that someone may be nervous or anxious. As noted by Fast Company, it can be hard to predict when and how people with sensory disabilities will respond to their environment, so it’s important that a handful of options are at their disposal.
For people with sensory disabilities, interfacing with the world can be a struggle. Children with conditions like non-verbal autism can be triggered by loud noises, huge crowds, and cramped spaces; the same goes for people who suffer from PTSD. If a person suffers from this kind of disability, they often have to avoid dynamic public and private spaces like restaurants and sports arenas.
The NBA hopes to change this, not just with the new store, but with iniatiatives in arenas around the league. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Sacramento Kings have already implemented the use of quiet rooms in their own spaces.
“Our hope is that we will demonstrate how easy it is to make spaces more inclusive, and will inspire other stores to do the same,” said Todd Jacobson, SVP of social responsibility at the NBA, in an interview with Fast Company. “It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s also good for business, since it means people with extra needs and their whole families will feel welcome.”