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Walker Art Center Offers 'Sensory Sundays' To Make Exhibits More Accessible

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- There are a lot of people in Minnesota who have sensitivities to things like light, sound and touch.

It's a common characteristic of people who have been diagnosed with autism.

The University of Minnesota estimates 1 in 42 children in the state have autism spectrum disorder.

The Walker Art Center is adjusting their galleries so people with sensory challenges can comfortably explore.

The lights, the sights, the sounds -- the Walker Art Center can be a busy place in more ways than one.

"Museums can be a challenging place to visit if you are someone who has sensory sensitivities," Sarah Lampen, the Walker's manager of lifelong learning and accessibility, said. "They can be busy, they can be loud."

So over the years, leaders at the museum got feedback that for some, the experience of their art was overly stimulating.

They consulted with self-advocates and autism experts and came up with a game plan to have sensory Sundays. Before guests even arrive, they can get a playbook of what to expect, from parking to finding entrance doors.

They hand out fidgets, sunglasses to regulate light room to room and noise-canceling ear gear.

Walker Art Center sensory Sundays
(credit: CBS)

Sound may be the most noticeable difference on Sensory Sundays, with volumes lowered in some galleries. Lights are lowered, too.

Even on the louder days, the Walker is finding ways for some to have a quieter experience. The Walker has been working wit the Autism Society of Minnesota so that anyone who comes in can get a bag with headphones, sunglasses, fidgets and coloring books.

"I just really want people to feel welcome and comfortable in the museum," Lampen said.

Because they are working to master the arts of kindness and inclusion.

Sensory Sundays are typically the second Sunday of the month, except for June. Because of Rock the Garden festivities, it's the first Sunday of the month, which is next Sunday, June 5.

You will need tickets, but they are free.

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