Image credit: University of Bath

Need a breather? The university’s brand-new sensory room might be the place for you!

The hustle and bustle of campus life can be overstimulating and harsh on students’ senses. Loud noises and even subtle movements can distract some, hampering their ability to work or study in common rooms, libraries or cafeterias. However, the newly unveiled sensory room on the third floor of the library (Room 3.10) promises to be “a quiet, sensory-friendly space” where they can seek relief from sensory overload. 

This thoughtfully designed, multipurpose room was developed in response to student feedback, addressing the need for more calm and soothing spaces on campus. According to Emma Nash, disability support coordinator at the University of Bath, this endeavour was the result of a ‘successful collaboration between the Disability Service team, the library staff, the Disability Action Group (DAG) and the SU’. Student collaboration was “key”, with this resource intending to stand as a testament to the University’s continued commitment towards inclusivity and accessibility.

Recently, Bath Time had an opportunity to explore this space, so let’s take a closer look at what it offers. 

Opened for use in January of 2024, it consists of three rooms – a larger room in the front, which is the actual sensory area, and two smaller adjoining rooms. The sensory area has numerous objects to accommodate a variety of sensory needs, like fidget balls, which can be used for stimming or repetitive self-regulating behaviours, soft flooring, colour-changing mood cubes and exercise balls. Often, many people show sensitivity to bright lights, so an arrangement for floor lamps that give off soft lighting has been made. Many seating options, including two bean bags and a sofa replete with oversized cushions, are also available. The smaller rooms (Rooms 3.10 A and 3.10 B) are bookable spaces with a seating capacity for two, which students can utilise for one-on-one support sessions with their disability advisors. As Emma Nash further comments, this is to rectify issues that many disabled students have in consistently finding quiet spaces on campus for their appointments, as well as develop “networks amongst peers” and “a healthy work/life balance”- without the sensory overload. 

Since it is relatively new, the concerned authorities have implemented a system to gather critical input from students on what can be added or improved. They can scan a QR code displayed on posters around the room and fill out a form online. Emma Nash informed us that efforts are being made to track the room usage through data provided by the library. Information regarding the number of students making use of the room regularly, and when or for how long individuals are using it shall be gathered. With the space becoming well-known among students, this might help manage it more effectively and, as mentioned by her, also address the challenge of ensuring that it does not become loud and noisy and “stays true to its purpose”. Ultimately, it is about striking a delicate balance between allowing as many students as possible to use this incredible space and ensuring access to those who need it. 

In our investigation of this new space, an issue was the conflicting messaging regarding its availability for students. According to the University website, the sensory room is a space for students registered with the disability service, however, Emma Nash has told Bath Time that the “space is open to all students and can be requested through security”.  In the interest of understanding student interest in utilising this space, greater transparency is needed on its accessibility. If the Disability Service team is to truly comprehend the sensory room’s popularity, clearer messaging would allow their targeted population of students to understand that this is an available resource to them.  

Notwithstanding, the sensory room serves as an exceptional model for developing future spaces. It can help people take a break from their hectic academic schedules, and provide them with the opportunity to cultivate a healthier work-life balance. It can be used to connect with peers, which in turn might work to foster feelings of belongingness to the student community. It demonstrates the profound impact of empathetic and student-centred initiatives in creating a more understanding and supportive environment for individuals of all abilities. The Disability Service has plans to construct such spaces in the city as well so that students who do not live on campus can benefit from them too. 

Bath Time received statements from Amber Snary, SU Education Officer and former Chair of DAG, and from Jess Smith, present Chair of DAG.  

Amber Snary remarked“I am so happy to see the sensory room finally open! It is amazing, as ever, to see our increasing provision for disabled students, and I can’t wait to see how students interact with the space. I want to hype up the current committee of DAG who helped usher this along, and have been so invested in the space, giving absolutely invaluable feedback”

Jess Smith, Chair of DAG: 

“The committee and I are thrilled that the sensory room is now open for use by students. A sensory-friendly space on campus was so desperately needed to positively impact the learning and well-being of these students, and we are so grateful that such a space now exists. We know that it will be an invaluable resource for students with disabilities at the university. We want to extend our greatest thanks to all of the hard-working staff in the SU and the university who have made this possible.

We are looking forward to continuing to work with them in the coming months to develop the space even further, ensuring that the space is the best that it possibly can be”. 

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