Accessible for All
Kent State University wants to create a welcoming environment for all—even at its athletic events. Cheering crowds, flashing scoreboards and loud buzzers can overwhelm people with sensory issues, so select men’s basketball games at the MAC Center this season recognized and catered to those on the autism spectrum, with support from local autism organizations.
Men’s basketball highlights include:
Nov. 6, 2019
Celebrating Kalin Bennett
Freshman center Bennett, believed to be the first freshman diagnosed with autism to sign a national letter of intent to play Division 1 men’s basketball, scores his first basket in a game against Hiram College (which Kent State wins 97–58). Photo by Kent State Athletics
Dec. 21, 2019
First Sensory-Friendly Basketball Game
Kent State partners with KultureCity®—which provides accessibility and inclusion for those with all abilities—to host a sensory-friendly game that brings in fans like April Stevens’ son (pictured), who has autism and loves basketball.
Kent State staffers receive training to help those who may feel anxious, and the MAC Center is now a certified sensory-inclusive venue.
The game against Hampton University (which Kent State wins 103–64) provides a sensory-friendly viewing area, pet therapy dogs and “sensory bags” to borrow that contain noise-canceling headphones, fidget activity toys and communication cards for nonverbal individuals. Photo by Kabir Bhatia, WKSU-FM
Feb. 15, 2020
Autism Awareness Basketball Game
In a game between Kent State and Ohio University, Flashes wear the winning uniform design from a contest held by Kent State Athletics and the School of Fashion, which partnered with Under Armour®, Kent State’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Student Accessibility Services.
The back of the jerseys include the Autism Society’s autism awareness ribbon and the phrase “1 in 59”—referring to a 2014 Centers for Disease Control study, which estimates that one in 59 US children is diagnosed on the autism spectrum.
Ohio University’s team wears light blue shoelaces, a designated color for autism awareness. During the game (which Kent State wins 87–72), the university promotes autism awareness messages and distributes stress toys and autism awareness T-shirts. Photo by Kent State Athletics