Gatwick Airport has opened a sensory room to help calm people who feel overwhelmed in busy and unfamiliar airport surroundings.
The new space in the North Terminal has been designed for passengers with autism, dementia, cognitive impairment or other special needs to make them feel at ease before their flight.
Passengers using the sensory room have the option to transform it from a calming and relaxing environment to a stimulating interactive space full of light and sound with just the flick of a switch.
A ‘chill-out zone’ for those needing calm includes floor cushions, bean bags and digital display panels, which generate colourful visual wall features.
A separate ‘interactive zone’ stimulates the senses through tactile panels, textures and a game to improve memory, motor skills and encourages learning.
The room is free to departing passengers and their families or carers who can book a 45-minute session at the North Terminal’s special assistance desk after they have gone through security.
Andy Pule, Gatwick Airport head of terminal operations, 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.”
Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, said: “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.”
Maria Cook, Autism Ambassador for Gatwick Airport, 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.”