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City of Tampa offers sensory relief zones for inclusive Boom by the Bay experience

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Posted at 6:06 PM, Jul 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-05 16:36:28-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Nearly a hundred thousand people will turn out to Tampa's Boom by the Bay to celebrate Independence Day. With such large crowds, the city is planning for those who may not be able to handle the noise and people.

Tampa is offering Sensory Relief Zones at their large-scale events, like Boom by the Bay.

Raquel Pancho is the ADA Coordinator for the city. She said this will give new opportunities to the visitors.

"Basically, it's an area that's going to have reduced visual distractions so that when a person needs that break from all of the sights and sounds, they'll be able to come to the area to kind of sit and relax for a little bit," she said.

Some of the things Sensory Relief Zones offer are reduced sound headphones, ear plugs, fidget items and even coloring books.

"The Autism Friendly Advisory Board recommended several years ago that we start offering this. So it actually started with the NFL when we had super bowl here," said Pancho. "The NFL graciously allowed us to be able to offer a sensory zone during the Super Bowl experience. And then we've now offered it at Boom by the Bay, and then Winter Fest as well."

Pancho said since its inception, it's become a much-needed break for all sorts.

“We have parents who will come and will say oh my goodness, we wish we would’ve known this was being offered so we could’ve brought our kids instead of hiring a babysitter. We also received feedback from educators, service producers. Interesting as well, veterans will express their gratitude for us to offer this," she said.

Mark Fleming said he couldn't think of a better way to celebrate Boom by the Bay than by volunteering in the Sensory Relief Zone.

"It means everything. It brings pride as a person with disabilities that my city is doing everything that they can do to make an event this big and of this capacity as inclusive as possible," he said.

For Fleming, the zones are a step in the right direction. He said he anticipates even more inclusion in the years to come.

"There's three areas set up for Boom by the Bay. Hopefully, in the future, we can have three separate tents so they don't have to come to just one area," Fleming said.

The city has plans to continue the Sensory Relief Zones for big events. If you're heading out to watch the fireworks, the tent is set up on Bayshore Boulevard between S. Delaware Street and S. Newport Street.