– By Emily Howard, Vice President
Today marks an important day in the United States – Veterans Day – when we honor all those who have bravely served our country. Throughout history, men and women in uniform have served the United States to enable us to pursue the lives we desire. As attraction designers, we have the opportunity to honor, celebrate, and create welcoming experiences for our veterans as they transition to civilian life after their tours have come to an end.
In the entertainment industry, sensory awareness – the understanding of how different groups of people process stimulation – is one way we can make attractions accessible to everyone. Veterans suffering from PTSD, for example, may face challenges in theme parks and museums due to bright lights, dynamic graphics, and loud noises.
As new technologies and capabilities are making these experiences increasingly immersive, more and more industry leaders are asking the challenging question: How can we create rich storytelling opportunities for visitors that are inclusive of everyone?
It starts with awareness. The first hurdle is understanding and accepting the different ways people process sensations – and that a fun, engaging experience for one person might be stress-inducing for another. From there, we can create ways for people to choose what’s right for them – whether it’s providing natural opportunities to opt out of an overwhelming situation, designing calming areas for people to take a break from sensory overload, or scheduling sensory days when attractions operate with lower lighting and volume.
At PGAV, it’s a privilege to work with clients to design inclusive attractions every day. Right here in our hometown, for example, we’re developing the St. Louis Aquarium which, when opened in December, will be one of the first sensory aware aquariums in the world.
I’m proud that sensory awareness has emerged as a growing priority in parks and attractions design. The attractions industry is home to some of the most creative minds in the world, so I’m confident that, with a shared commitment to inclusivity, we can create opportunities that allow everyone to experience the joy of a world-class attraction.