PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – With bright fluorescent lights, loud announcements and crowds of people bustling from one gate to another, the airport can be a bit of a sensory overload for some people. Portland International Airport hopes a newly opened space in one of its concourses will be a nice escape for some people. 

On Wednesday, Portland International Airport opened its first sensory room. The room is located in Concourse D and is filled with lights, artwork, textured walls and puzzles – all meant to ease sensory overload or stimulate the senses in a nice way. 

“We worked collaboratively with both Kulture City and the Autism Society of Oregon to outfit the room in a way that’s meaningful for folks who will find it calming and restorative,” said Kama Simonds, spokesperson for Portland International Airport. 

Tobi Rates, executive director of the Autism Society of Oregon, said she was blown away when the airport reached out to work with the society to construct the room. She was even more surprised with how quickly construction was completed. 

As the mother of two children who have autism, Rates said she knows how difficult navigating an airport can be. She said Portland International Airport has been great in the past by offering the “Sky’s The Limit” program with Alaska Airlines, where families with children on the autism spectrum can go through what Rates calls a “dress rehearsal” of boarding a flight. She said the TSA Cares Assistance program at the airport has also made the process of going through security with her children much easier. 

Now, this sensory room is one more thing Rates hopes will make her family’s travels more enjoyable. 

“I took my younger son to try out the room as part of sort of a soft opening a couple of weeks ago and he had a ball. He loved the beanbag chairs. He’s very much what we call a ‘sensory seeker,’” Rates said. 

Kulture City, the other organization Portland International Airport partnered with, is a non-profit that focuses on sensory accessibility and inclusion. Simonds said the airport relied on both Kulture City and the Autism Society of Oregon to decide on what would be put inside the room. 

While the room was constructed with people who have autism and disabilities in mind, it is open for anyone who needs the space. The room is equipped with an indicator on the door that says when it’s available or in use. Simonds said the airport is relying on the honor system and trusting people won’t spend too much time in the room and prevent others from enjoying it. 

The room includes several surfaces and objects meant to be touched. Simonds said the space will be cleaned regularly. 

The room is open 24/7, but is only accessible to councourses D and E. Portland International Airport says it hopes to add more rooms like this in other concourses in the future. 

Rates said she hopes to see sensory rooms become standard in all airports. For now, she’s thrilled to have the one in Portland International Airport. She said it’s something that helps everyone travel in a way that works best for them. 

“By helping people with disabilities, as well as anybody who needs it, it helps everyone,” she said. “It’s not a special perk set aside for a certain group of people. It’s open to everyone and for anyone who needs it.”