Pelham library is certified sensory inclusive

PELHAM – The Pelham Public Library recently became a certified sensory inclusive facility, thanks to a partnership between the city of Pelham and KultureCity.

KultureCity is a nonprofit that uses its resources to revolutionize and effect change in communities for those with sensory needs, not just those with autism. Since its inception, KultureCity has created over 200 sensory inclusive venues in three countries and at special events such as the NFL Pro-Bowl, NFL Super Bowl and MLB All Star Weekend.

All of the programs and events the library hosts will now be sensory inclusive. This new initiative will promote an accommodating and positive experience for all guests with a sensory issue that visits the library.

The library will celebrate the launch of its sensory inclusive services on Friday, May 17, from 2-4 p.m. This is also the one year anniversary of the new library’s opening at 2000 Pelham Park Boulevard. Area residents, especially those with sensory sensitivities, are invited to celebrate with library staff and city officials while enjoying fun activities and snacks.

Library Director Mary Campbell said she was introduced to KultureCity through a friend who has a son with autism. She said the training process was quick and only took a few weeks to complete.

The certification process entailed the staff at the library being trained by medical professionals on how to recognize those guests with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation. Campbell said five sensory bags and a weighted lap pad will be available to all guests at the library who may feel overwhelmed by the environment. The sensory bags include noise canceling headphones, fidget tools and verbal cue cards.

Campbell said there will be a sign at the entrance of the library to let visitors know that it’s a sensory inclusive facility. Inside the library, signs will tell visitors where they can get a sensory bag. Areas that tend to be noisier, such as the children’s area and program rooms, will have noise cancelling headphones. Upstairs, signs will direct visitors to quiet areas.

Sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by individuals with autism, dementia, PTSD and other similar conditions. One of the major barriers for these individuals is sensitivity to over stimulation and noise, which can be part of the environment in any public venue such as a public library.

With its new certification, the library is now better prepared to assist guests with sensory sensitivities in having the most comfortable and accommodating experience possible when visiting the library or attending an event.

Prior to visiting the library, families can download the free KultureCity App where they can view what sensory features are available and where they can access them. Also, on the app is the Social Story which will provide a preview of what to expect while visiting or enjoying an event at the library.

“It is truly amazing to see Birmingham and surrounding communities care about sensory inclusion. Often times, folks might think that libraries are quiet, but sensory overloads can occur anywhere; therefore, having the Pelham Public Library’s staff trained is remarkable. We hope others will follow in their footsteps,” said Dr. Julian Maha, co-founder of KultureCity.