Gatwick is first UK airport to open sensory room

Gatwick Airport has become the first airport in the UK to unveil a sensory room for passengers.

The room is free to use and offers a calming, private place for passengers who feel overwhelmed by travel to relax ahead of a flight. Located at the North Terminal, the interactive zone full of light and sound helps to stimulate senses, enhance memory, improve motor skills and help users to learn.

Designed with passengers with autism, dementia, cognitive impairment and other special needs in mind, the sensory room offers users the choice between a relaxing haven or an interactive zone, with the latter experience available at by simply flicking a switch.

For passengers seeking a calming experience, the “chill-out zone” features cushions, bean bags and digital displays. The “interactive zone”, which is separate, is designed to stimulate the senses using tactile panels and textures, a memory game and more.

Departing passengers and families or carers can access the Gatwick sensory room by booking a free 45-minute session at the North Terminal special assistance desk after security.

The launch of the sensory room follows the opening earlier this year of a new 90-capacity premium lounge for passengers requiring special help. In fact, Gatwick was named the UK’s first autism-friendly airport back in  2016, with a special airport guide available for autistic passengers to help familiarise themselves with the airport itself and the process of travelling through it.

Activities available in the sensory room include a Catherine wheel panel, colour match panels, sound to light showtime, waterless rainbow tube, interactive giant causeway, activity board, abstract tactile panels and infinity and beyond panel, all designed to stimulate and encourage learning.

Gatwick Airport’s Head of Terminal Operations, Andy Pule, said: “We recognise airports can be stressful environments for some passengers, which is why we are extremely proud to offer this new space for them to relax in and enjoy before their flight.

“Gatwick is committed to providing passengers who have a disability of any kind with the support and services required to ensure their time at the airport is as comfortable as possible and this remains a key area of focus for the airport.”

Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, Mark Lever, said: “There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK and they and their families want to access the same opportunities others often take for granted, and this includes holidays and travel. But many rely on routines to make sense of an often confusing world and can find the busy and unpredictable airport and flight environments distressing and disorientating.

“This is why we were delighted that London Gatwick, who achieved our prestigious Autism Friendly Award in 2016, have gone a step further and created a fantastic new sensory room for autistic travellers. A calming space like this can help autistic people to decompress and relax before departure, helping them to better manage their anxiety during the flight. Supportive spaces like these play an essential role in opening up the world for autistic people and their families.”

Autism Ambassador for Gatwick Airport, Maria Cook, said: “I cannot thank the whole team involved in this project enough for making it a reality. Working closely with Gatwick I explained the vast benefits of having such a wonderful facility available and the positive impact it has for people with complex conditions and their families and they did not hesitate to create something very special indeed. It is the most amazing Sensory Room I have ever seen.

“To have somewhere like this to explore and reduce anxieties before boarding a flight for someone with Autism, Dementia, a learning difficulty to name but a few conditions, is so important for the person themselves, their carers and accompanying family and it could very well make the difference between someone actually getting on the plane or not at all because it had become too stressful.”

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Gatwick is first UK airport to open sensory room