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September University of Galway launches Multi-Sensory Room for students
University of Galway launches Multi-Sensory Room for students
Adam Harris, Founder and chief executive of Ireland’s national autism charity AsIAm, has today officially opened University of Galway’s new Multi-Sensory Room, designed to make the campus more inclusive and sensory-friendly.
The Multi-Sensory Room was designed in consultation with students and specialist staff and in collaboration with an architect, and is equipped with interactive and integrated lighting, visual, vibroacoustic and sound effects that create an immersive and customisable sensory experience for students.
The room is designed to be a safe space for students to self-regulate by adjusting their sensory environment. Users will be able to choose from a range of calming or stimulating, integrated lighting, sound and vibroacoustic arrangements, to suit their sensory needs, and unwind on comfortable furniture. Soft furnishings and sensory stress-relieving items complete the experience, enabling students to feel regulated and supporting their engagement in college life.
Adam Harris said: “Autistic people, and other neurodivergent people, face barriers to accessing education which are often invisible to others but which prevent our community from enjoying the same chance. Some 3.38% of children in school today now have an Autism diagnosis and there is also a significant increase in the number of adults accessing assessment. It is so important that higher level education institutions are accessible for our community and that environmental barriers do not prevent students from thriving and contributing. AsIAm, Ireland’s National Autism Charity, is delighted to be working with HEIs across the country as part of our Autism Friendly HEI Award and we warmly congratulate the University of Galway on the launch of their sensory space - this investment will no doubt support more students to access the University, enrich the experience of those already enrolled and also act as an educational tool for all on campus in terms of understanding and accepting difference.”
University of Galway Vice-President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Helen Maher, said: “'Inclusivity is a priority for the University to create equal opportunities and conditions for all, and we are focused on assisting those most in need. This space is part of University of Galway’s wider efforts to accommodate and make the campus more accessible for students with additional needs.
“We need to ensure that our students experience at University of Galway is an enjoyable and positive one, and accessibility and student involvement were key considerations throughout the design of this space. Universities can be a crowded and noisy environment which can impact learning and work, especially for neurodiverse students, so the aim of the new Multi-Sensory Room is to provide a safe space where users can relax and stimulate their senses in a controlled manner.”
The opening of the multi-sensory room in the Arts Millennium Building forms part of University of Galway’s suite of indoor and outdoor initiates designed to provide sensory friendly spaces and to create a more inclusive campus.
Previous initiatives on that theme include the Cubbie Sensory Hub, a multi-sensory, safe space for students and staff; the introduction of the JAM Card©, which allows people with communication challenges to discreetly and easily tell others they need 'Just A Minute'; outdoor study pods; sensory garden; relaxation room; and an initiative to map the accessibility of campus footpaths and building surrounds.
Head of University of Galway’s Access Centre Imelda Byrne said: “The launch of the new multi-sensory room is another important step in University of Galway’s ongoing commitment to create an inclusive campus environment for our diverse student body. In the academic year 2022/23, there were over 1,600 students registered for support with the Access Centre’s disability support service. Inclusive spaces such as the new multi-sensory provide an important safe space for our neurodiverse students and ensure these supports are built into the very fabric of the University’s built environment.”
Izzy Tiernan, Vice President/Welfare and Equality Officer, University of Galway Students’ Union, said: “The creation and opening of a new multi-sensory room in the Arts Millennium Building is sure to become a valuable asset for neurodivergent students, as well as the wider student body. In a world that is designed and built for neurotypical people, having safe, quiet and accessible spaces for students of different abilities is essential to creating an inclusive campus environment. As an autistic person myself, I am extremely excited to utilise the new space to take a few minutes out during the day to regulate my emotions, clear my mind and make life just that little bit easier.”
The establishment of the multi-sensory room project was supported by the Higher Education Authority's Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) Strategic Project scheme (2021-2022) and the HEA PATH 4 Phase 1 funding scheme (2022-23).