Creating an Accessible Community at the Ohio State Fair: First Sensory-Friendly Morning Offered

OHIO entrance sign at the Ohio State Fair

The Ohio State Fair—from the rides and attractions to the concerts, shows, and the ever-famous food, the Fair is an annual event and tradition for thousands of Ohioans. At this mecca of endless fun and entertainment, fairgoers experience the bright lights, loud sounds, and distinguishable smells—you know the ones, the mouth-watering smells of funnel cakes and french fries to the unique scents coming from the animal barns. While these sensory-stimulating features may not interfere with most fairgoers’ experience, others’ senses may be heightened by these things, impacting their overall Fair experience.

To ensure all Ohioans can positively experience the Fair, OCALI has partnered with the Ohio State Fair to host the Fair’s first Sensory-Friendly Morning on Wednesday, July 31 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. During these designated hours, fairgoers can experience a sensory-friendly morning where the lights will be lowered and the sounds turned down. For those looking to take a break, they can relax in the OCALI Quiet Room. Located in the Ohio Building, this quiet, air-conditioned space will offer a variety of low-tech and mid-tech solutions to support a variety of sensory needs, including fidgets, weighted lap pads, and other sensory supports.

“By turning down the lights and sounds for just a few hours on a weekday morning, we hope to make the Fair a more pleasurable experience for those who need a break from exploring the many activities of the Fair,” shares Ohio State Fair General Manager, Virgil Strickler.

In addition to the Sensory-Friendly Morning, the Ohio State Fair will build upon its existing accessibility efforts and feature new wheelchair/mobility charging stations and technology to connect people who are blind or have low vision to an agent who can help with navigation. These efforts are all designed to expand access and ensure inclusivity.

“At OCALI, we believe in a world where everyone deserves access to their community,” explains Shawn Henry, Executive Director at OCALI. “These new features at the Fair help to create a common experience with unique considerations that allow greater access for all people.”

OCALI and other organizations, including Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD), have partnered closely with the Ohio State Fair this year to carefully plan these new features to improve accessibility.

“When our mission and vision of inspiring change and promoting access aligns with our partner’s mission of community engagement, we allow everyone the opportunity to live their best lives,” shares Henry. “To make change happen, we need to continue to engage in partnerships where people are willing to change the status quo, and that’s what this collaboration with OOD and the Ohio State Fair has been about.”

Strickler agrees. “We’re thrilled to have such a strong partnership with the experts at OCALI. They have been instrumental in providing guidance that will help us to ensure that the Fair can be enjoyable for as many Ohioans as possible.”

Learn more about the Ohio State Fair Sensory Friendly Morning, including a special parking permit and resources to support your visit.

Sensory-based Resources

Looking for more sensory-related resources? Check out these recommendations from OCALI staff:

About Sensory Processing

Sensory processing is where you take information in through all of your sensory systems. The sensory system helps us to organize ourselves and how we handle sensory experiences to maintain physical and emotional balance. Basically, it’s taking information in through your eyes, ears, touch, nose, and movement. Once you take in that information from one of the sensory systems, you then determine what you’re going to do with that information and then come up with an action.

Most of us are able to tune into the things necessary to be able to navigate and react to the environment while tuning out things that are irrelevant to our current activities. For some, senses are heightened, meaning that sensory input feels over-responsive and one may be hypersensitive in certain spaces. Other senses may be under-responsive where more input is needed and one might be sensory seeking. However, for some people, the reaction is different, finding some experiences to be confusing and overwhelming, impacting the ability to maintain the physical and emotional balance that allows one to adapt to the ever changing sensory environment.

Providing an environment that accommodates sensory differences will support a more manageable degree of sensory stimuli and the ability to better process the sensory stimulation received.