The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is about to get underway.
Bellowing music and bright lights are part of what make the festivities special, but not for everyone.
Many children living with disabilities in the community have sensory needs. That same music and those bright lights that bring some joy, cause a distressing reaction for others.
That’s why the city of Cambridge created the Sensitive Santa experience in 2013, and after a COVID hiatus is bringing the event back in 2022.
“There was a Calgary Sensitive Santa event highlighted on Canada AM in 2013,” Olga Vigil Letang, supervisor of diversity, equity and inclusion for the city of Cambridge said.
“We were looking for an event to highlight the International Day of People with Disabilities on December 3rd. We felt this event was a great fit for our community.”
This type of event fits in perfectly with the city’s renewed focus on accessibility and inclusion.
“While the city has many great activities planned throughout the holiday season, this particular offering takes into account the sensory needs of children living with disabilities,” Vigil Letang said.
“It’s often a challenge to find spaces and events that provide reduced sensory triggers such as sound, lighting, and movement. We hope that offering this program increases the options for accessible events and demonstrates that the city of Cambridge is dedicated to increasing accessibility in its programs.”
The 2022 Santa meet and greets, which span over three Sundays starting at the end of November and ending mid-December, have reached capacity for this season supporting 80 families and 156 children.
The numbers reiterate the need for this event, and others like it, in the community Vigil Letang says.
“While it's not open for a drop in, we do hope that seeing this need encourages other organizations and service providers to consider hosting events like this throughout the year,” she said.
“Residents can explore ways in which they can contribute to organizations hosting sensory friendly events and raise awareness of the need for sensory friendly considerations within their circles of influence.”
The city’s events team is always looking for ways to be more inclusive and accessible, but how they do that is dependent on the needs they see within the community.
“Increasing accessibility in events, activities, and spaces can look different depending on the need being addressed,” Vigil Letang said.
“Our events teams strive to increase accessibility and inclusion through mindful planning accounting for the diverse physical needs within our community. Providing sensory friendly events is another way in which we hope to increase accessibility and inclusion.”