Philadelphia named first ‘Sensory Inclusive City’

Some 16,000 city workers have undergone special training to help people with sensory disorders.

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Mayor Kenney, the Phillie Phanatic, and others pose for a photo together in City Hall.

Philadelphia receives award as first Sensory Inclusive City. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

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Philadelphia is the first city to be named a Certified Sensory Inclusive City by Kulture City, a nonprofit focusing on the inclusion of neurodivergent people.

Sensory sensitivities are most often experienced by people with autism, ADHD, PTSD, or other spectrum conditions.

Uma Srivastava of Kulture City said Philadelphia was selected in part because everyone employed by the city has undergone training to help people through sensory issues, whether it be a loud room, music, or another trigger.

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“So if you have an overload, if you are feeling overwhelmed, they will be able to give that virtual hug,” she said. “They will be able to give you that space to decompress, to reset, and to go back out into the environment.”

A mobile sensory station at City Hall.
Mobile Sensory Station at City Hall. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Amy Nieves, head of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, said training 16,000 people for anything isn’t easy.

“It was a large lift, we have dozens of departments that work tirelessly across all shifts in multiple locations and many are first responders that keep our city safe and operating,” Nieves said.

Actor Stephen Kunken said other cities need to follow suit.

“Every member of this great community should be afforded the opportunity to not only feel welcomed and feel safe and to be included but to be welcomed, to be safe, and to be included,” he said.

The city has worked to create special sensory stations and special bags equipped with everything from fidget items and noise-canceling headphones to aid those with sensory issues.

Contents of a bag are laid out on a table
Sensory bag and contents. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

The city also unveiled special mobile sensory stations that can be used at city-sponsored events.

Mascots from the Phillies and Eagles also attended Tuesday’s announcement. Swoop was wearing his noise-canceling headphones to show even a mascot can be inclusive. The Eagles have a charity designed to help people with autism and have a special room at Lincoln Financial Field to help those undergoing sensory overload at a game.

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