Since our very first Dan + Claudia Zanes concert at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music in October 2016, we’ve been working with presenters to make our shows sensory friendly whenever possible (which has been most of the time).
When we talk about sensory friendly, or “relaxed” performances, we’re referring to conditions that make the concert experience comfortable for more people. It’s a way of opening the door wider and inviting a broader range of communities to the party.
These are still early days for sensory friendly and there are a variety of different ways of doing it. In certain cases, particularly theatrical performances, sensory friendly means a designated show that is specifically for people with autism. Some performing arts centers call these performances “relaxed” and invites anyone who wants a relaxed environment to experience the art.
However, when we say sensory friendly we’re indicating that all are welcome. Our goal is to create an environment that’s as inclusive and accessible to everyone. The audience that has always felt comfortable and welcome at our shows is invited as well as people with diverse sensory needs.
We’ve heard over and over from parents of children with disabilities that their child’s responses in public spaces can lead to uncomfortable situations in which they feel judged or unwelcomed. Sensory Friendly performances are a way of saying “come as you are, we’re all in this together.” We’ve seen firsthand how moving it can be when families who might not generally mix are able to enjoy music together. Once we experienced this there was no turning back!