Non-verbal communication

Ableist Cities Symposium – Diversity and lived experience in the city: Politics, policy and practice

The use of sensory rooms and intensive interaction with non-verbal communicators – two presentations by Architecture & Access.

On Monday the 4th of December The University of Melbourne hosted the second Ableist Cities Symposium.  The aim of the symposium was-

To marry the realms of politics, policy, and practical applications to address the pressing challenges faced in the built environment. In giving voice to these narratives, we aim to ignite conversations that will shape our cities to make them more inclusive, equitable, and accessible for all.

There was a rich cohort of speakers at the symposium with a wide breadth of experience, ranging from people with lived experience of disability, academics, architects, designers and health professionals.  The day was very interactive with each session allowing time for a panel discussion with the previous speakers.

One of the quotes that will stay with me explains Ilianna, was from a person with vision loss who said, “my feet tell stories.”  I thought this was a beautiful way to describe how she uses tactile sensations through her feet to read and understand her environment.

Cathryn Grant - Access Leader VIC
Cathryn Grant – Access Leader VIC

Cathryn attended this symposium to present on three research projects completed with Deakin University Occupational Therapy students as their Honours project.  The studies aimed to investigate the use of sensory rooms which are becoming more popular in the built environment, especially in shopping centres and large sporting stadiums.  However, there is very little available evidence on their effectiveness or how they should be designed and managed.  The three projects were aimed at contributing knowledge in this space and each focused on a different user group: the person with a disability using the room, parents/carers of someone using the room and building owners/managers. 

The user feedback on the design, location and provided equipment was shared, as well as some of the challenges to using and managing these rooms in public spaces.  You can view the symposium and our presentation on using the following link

Following the symposium Architecture & Access are working on developing a guide to the design and management of these rooms.  For more information, please contact us on 1300 715 866.

Architecture & Access


Level 5, 369 Royal Parade
Parkville VIC Australia 3052

T 1300 715 866


Bowman House, Level 4,
Suite 41B, 276 Edward Street
Brisbane QLD 4000 Australia

T 1300 715 866