“I have a son — he will be 13 on April 13th — with autism. He is nonverbal, so he uses a speech generated device to communicate. For me, it’s not just about awareness. It’s about acceptance and inclusion. We don’t have enough acceptances in society. And in an autistic family, if you want to keep the family together, you need inclusion.”
April is Autism Awareness Month and METRO employees, like Jeff, are showing their support for the nonprofit organization KultureCity by wearing their “Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion” T-shirts every Friday during the month of April.
KultureCity has partnered with over 100 organizations nationally with their Sensory Inclusive Initiative, including 16 NBA (originating with the Cleveland Cavaliers) and three NFL teams. Locally, the Akron Zoo became the second sensory inclusive zoo in the country, and KultureCity also trained Lock 3 and Lock 4, the Akron Children’s Museum, and are currently training 22 Akron-Summit County Public Libraries and The Akron RubberDucks to be sensory inclusive.
What does it mean to be Sensory Inclusive? Jeff explains that those places offer sensory bags containing noise-cancelling headphones, fidget toys, a card with icons to assist communication, and a calming weighted lap blanket that visitors can check-out for free. There is also signage that designates loud and quiet spaces around the area.
“This is a movement that started with the Cavs and just took off.”
Additionally, KultureCity just launched their app that is downloadable on Apple and Android devises. The app allows you to find sensory inclusive places near you, access resources, and social stories.