BOV and Esplora prioritising hidden disabilities

Last Updated on Friday, 11 December, 2020 at 9:06 am by Andre Camilleri

Bank of Valletta is fully supporting the setting up of a Multi-Sensory room at the Esplora Interactive Science Centre  through an agreement between the Bank and the Malta Council for Science and Technology.

Multi-Sensory environments are specifically designed spaces that empower people with a disability to make the most out of a learning experience through  fun and relaxation through sensory experiences for therapy learning. Population groups that benefit greatly from the use of a Multi-Sensoryroom include peoplewith Alzheimer’s disease, AutismSpectrum Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome,Cerebral Palsy, Dementia, Down Syndrome, Dyslexia, and Epilepsy. According to the World Health Organisation, “over one billion people – accounting for about 15% of the global population – live with some form of disability and this number is increasing.”

Esplora already embraces peopleliving with a disability by providing a fully accessible visitor experience. It trains its entire staff, through EsplorAware, to be more aware of the meaning and added value of inclusion and accessibility and to learn how to interact with persons living with a disability. Autism Friendly hours are normally held once a month on Sundays, whereby Esplora’s operations are adjusted by lowering the volume and softening the lights to allow adults and children with Autisim to enjoy their visit in a quieter ambience. During these hours fidget toys, ear defenders and weighted blankets are also provided if needed. Esplora has also introduced the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme which discreetly indicates to people around you including staff, colleagues and health professionals that you may need additional support, help or a little more time. Such lanyards may be accessible from Esplora reception.

Works on this project have already started. MCST will be transforming a 4.5m by 2.6m enclosure into a Multi-Sensory room. The room will contain an array of lighting effects, such as projectors with wheels that emit light patterns throughout the room, bubble lamps, spotlights, star panels, fiber optics, UV lights and mirror balls. Tactile experiences such as touching surfaces with changing textures will be incorporated in an interactive tactile wall panel.

This relaxing and explorative experience will be provided under the guidance of an enabler, a trained Esplora Science Communicator who will follow and support the activity without influencing the visitors’ choices. 

This is a project which can be enjoyed by people with different abilities, who can benefit from the use of a sensory room to process thoughts and emotions in a  situation which could otherwise become overwhelming.  In his speech, Dr. Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, MCST Executive Chairman said: “Esplora offers an inclusive and accessible environment for people with different abilities. This new project is the continuation of a series of related initiatives already being taken at Esplora.” He emphasised the importance of enabling people with different abilities to make the most out of their visit at Esplora. Dr. Pullicino Orlando thanked BOV for their support on the project.

“Bank of Valletta is delighted to participate in this project that further enhances the unique experiences already offered at Esplora,” said Charles Azzopardi, Executive PR and Marketing at Bank of Valletta. “As a Bank at the heart of the Maltese Community, we have the responsibility to promote the inclusion of our differences as well as provide a small haven for those who most need it.”

In his closing remarks the Hon. Owen Bonnici, Minister for Research, Innovation and the Coordination of Post COVID-19 Strategy explained that: “A multisensory room is described as being a therapeutic environment created for the express purpose of delivering high levels of stimuli to patients with dementia – a private room displays optical illusions with combined lighting effects, aromas, colours, textures and sounds to stimulate a person’s olfactory, auditory and gustatory systems. Sensory spaces have been shown to decrease negative behaviours and improve student engagement.”

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