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Creating a Sensory Map for the Museum

Our Museum Assistant, Bethany, discusses her work and research into making museums more autism-friendly.

"As part of Autism Acceptance Week (28th March – 3rd April), I decided to look into different ways to make the museum more ‘autism-friendly’. As an autistic person myself, I can understand different reasons as to why museums may be a difficult environment to be in – so I wanted to use my experiences to highlight this.

The first thing I did was to research what accommodations other museums were providing and whether or not they were something that we could also do. One idea – that didn’t require a lot of time and money – was to highlight which areas of the museum might be overwhelming for an autistic person. "


Making the sensory map

"One way to do this was to go round the entire museum and note down four different aspects that could impact a visit for autistic people (or anyone with sensory issues in general): noise levels, lighting, the provision of hand sanitiser and the provision of chairs and folding stools. The last two may not make sense initially, but I do think that it can help alleviate some stress. 

The reason for including hand sanitiser is that it can provide autistic people with a means of cleaning their hands without requiring a hand dryer. From personal experience, hand dryers can be incredibly noisy – and therefore incredibly overwhelming!  

The reasons for including chairs are much more varied, it’s more of a general accessibility note but can also provide a use for autistic visitors. It’s there as a place for autistic people to sit down and rest if needed (for example, if they were having a sensory overload and feel like they are unable to travel far). 

I also noted down the location of our designated ‘quiet room’ - which is the lecture hall – and from that, I started plotting out these points on a copy of the museum’s map. Each different sensory aspect was colour coded: red was loud noises, dark blue was bright or inconsistent lighting, green was hand sanitiser locations, light orange was chair locations, pink was dim lighting and purple marked out the ‘quiet room’. 

It didn’t take too long to make the ‘sensory map’ - as I call it. In fact, it probably took more time for me to find a high-quality copy of the map than it did to make the rest of it!  

Seeing the map on the front desk and on the museum’s website fills me with not only a sense of pride – but also a sense of progress in terms of the steps being taken to make the museum a more accessible place, no matter how small those steps may be. 

It was a quick and easy way of making autistic visitors feel more welcome at the museum, because I believe that museums should be accessible for all! "

Click here to download a copy of Bethany's sensory map.

Visual Story

A screenshot of the Museum's visual story - it includes a picture of the doors into the building and text to describe how to enter

The Museum also has a Visual Story. An image-led document that may be useful for anyone who benefits from preparing when visiting a new place.

Click here to explore the Museum's Visual Story