AKRON — For people who deal with sensory disorders, navigating public spaces can be tricky.  But the Akron-Summit County Public Library System is working to be more accessible for all of its patrons.

The library partnered with KultureCity, a national non-profit that helps, in part, make places more accessible for people who have sensory disorders and can get overwhelmed by certain stimuli.  

That can include people who fall on the autism spectrum, those who deal with PTSD, and those who have dementia. Now, the library is a sensory-inclusive environment. 

“So if you come to the library and you are experiencing some discomfort in terms of sensory integration, the sensory inclusive environment is one in which all of the staff is trained to recognize or respond to your concerns and has some tools in place so you can enjoy your time at the library, make it a productive visit,” explained the library's deputy director Barb White.  

One of those tools include sensory-inclusion bags. All of the library’s 19 locations now have bags featuring items that can help facilitate a visit to the library. Patrons can ask to use a bag at a circulation desk. 

The bags contain items like noise-cancelling headphones, fidgets to help to keep hands busy, communication cards to help non-verbal customers express themselves, and weighted lap blankets to help provide a sense of calm. Each branch also has a designated quiet space.

Summit County resident Jeff Belles has a 13-year-old son, Carson, who is non-verbal and autistic. He uses a speech-generated device to communicate. Belles is a part of the KultureCity team. He points out there's a difference between a sensory inclusive environment versus a sensory friendly environment. 

"Sensory friendly limits, generally by time or space," he said via email. "For example, many places will do a sensory friendly event, which means that they make accommodations for that time, or for the day. Sensory inclusion is every event, every day." 

According to KultureCity, other Ohio spaces that are sensory-inclusive include the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Quicken Loans Arena, and Canal Park.