The sensory room was designed in consultation with autism experts from the Anderson Center for Autism.
A new pre-security sensory room at a New Jersey airport is aiming to make it easier for neurodiverse travelers, providing them with a space to wait for their flight as well as an easier way to get through security screening.
The sensory room, which opened in Terminal A of Newark Liberty International Airport, was designed in consultation with autism experts from the Anderson Center for Autism and evokes a serene river scene, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey shared with Travel + Leisure. The room is also part of the Transportation Security Administration’s TSA Cares program, which offers expedited security for travelers who require it.
“It’s meant to be a calming place that gives you a little bit of a chance to catch your breath before you go through the busy airport environment,” Sarah McKeon, the Port Authority’s general manager of New Jersey airports, said in a statement.
The 1,000 square foot room features colorful carpeting mimicking a riverbank, support beams in the shapes of trees, and a fish tank as “an aesthetic tribute to New Jersey’s ecosystems and landmarks.” The room also includes glowing bubble tubes, which the Port Authority said provide visual stimulation, tactile stimulation thanks to soft vibration, and auditory stimulation in the form of beads bouncing off glass.
Unique to this sensory room, travelers who access the space and sign up for the TSA Cares program can also be met there by a TSA officer and brought to a separate screening area that is less hectic. The separate screening lane can be accessed directly from the sensory room.
Newark is also building a second sensory room in the same terminal post-security which will feature an ocean theme complete with projections of sea life, another fish tank, calming music, and soft places to sit. The room will also include a replica of an airplane cabin so passengers can get used to the space before boarding.
In the New York City area, LaGuardia Airport is the only other airport featuring a post-security sensory room, but does not have one pre-security.
Beyond New York, several other airports have installed similar spaces, like the quiet room at Myrtle Beach International Airport in South Carolina or the multi-sensory rooms at Miami International Airport.