In 2021 we ran a series of seven focus groups to learn more about public spaces that can be more difficult sensory environments as well as learning more about what makes those spaces more challenging and/or less accessible for autistic people. To analyse the data we used thematic analysis, which helped us to develop a series of 6 main themes and 15 subthemes that reflect the patterns we found in our data. Once we had created our initial ideas, we then hosted a feedback group to further refine our ideas.
“I always envisage it is a big spider web of things that might affect me in a sensory environment, and I want to say to people, it’s about actually looking at all those little things that build up…”Member of the Focus group
People identified that different factors often occur overlap with one another which can make an environment more challenging. For each individual these factors may overlap in different ways to different extents. This means that each person’s perspective of a public place may be similar but each will be slightly different depending on their own needs, interests and experiences.
With the support of @21andsensory we designed a sensory wheel (also known as a radar chart, spider graph, web chart or star plot) of the different principles that make environments more challenging. The outer edge of the wheel represents the more disabling end of the spectrum, whereas closer to the centre of the wheel represents the more enabling side.
Click on the images below to learn more about each of the different themes and subthemes that we identified in more detail.