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Reviewing the multi-sensory room in the TFDL: A triumph in accessibility at the University of Calgary

By Josie Simon, September 21 2023—

On September 5, 2023, I had the opportunity to use the multi-sensory room at the Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL). The multi-sensory room is a small, private space located at the back of the first floor of the TFDL with a curtain for privacy, specifically designed for individuals with sensory needs and to provide them with a space to alleviate sensory overload. Read on for my honest review.

Upon entering the room, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of sensory tools and toys. The room’s bookcase is well equipped with noise-cancelling headphones, sunglasses, single-use earplugs, textured seating cushions, a weighted vest and pad and an array of sensory toys such as pop-its, spiky tactile balls, infinity cubes and pop tubes. Additionally, the room provides hand sanitizer, a cleaning spray and paper towels to ensure the cleanliness of the space. 

The room’s standout feature is a large water bubble column with changing lights and plastic fish. This feature provides calming sensory input and has the potential to alleviate anxiety, offering a peaceful, immersive experience. Additionally, the room includes two seating options and a light switch which users can use to customize their experience. 

I was further impressed by the thoughtful name of the multi-sensory room, as it purposely includes individuals beyond those with autism who may also experience sensory overload, such as individuals with ADHD or PTSD. However, the room could benefit from an improvement — a hook to secure the curtain. Even after pulling the curtain to the end of the line, a small gap remained between one of the walls and the curtain, which could compromise users’ privacy.

The rules of the room are simple: clean up after yourself, do not use the space as a study space or hangout area, use the space only for multisensory purposes, booking is restricted to students registered with the Student Accessibility Services and the space is for one person only at a time. You must also return all items where you found them and you can only book for 60 minutes daily. 

The booking process is straightforward. First, visit the University of Calgary Library website and select your preferred time slot. You will receive a verification link via email. At the time of your booking, go to the back of the first floor at the TFDL, where you will see a curtain with a screen displaying your name and booking time. Walk in, close the curtain behind you, and enjoy.  

As someone who has autism and has experienced numerous instances of sensory overload during my time at the University of Calgary, the multi-sensory room left me quite emotional. This space marks a milestone towards an inclusive and accessible future where students of all sensory needs are not only accepted but also encouraged in academic and professional spaces.

The multi-sensory room at TFDL is a commendable effort toward improving accessibility. Although there is room for improvement, the space serves as a beacon of hope for individuals with sensory needs and showcases the University of Calgary’s commitment to inclusivity. With this achievement, the institution sets an example for others to follow in providing solutions for diverse student needs.

Special thanks go to the Students’ Union, especially the previous SLC representatives for the Werklund School of Education, Georgia East and Dhwani Joshi, who made this room a reality.

This space makes me feel seen and that feeling is beautiful.

This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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