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13 December 2022

The Jockey Club becomes first horseracing organisation to offer permanent sensory rooms with facilities available at Cheltenham and Aintree

The Jockey Club has become the first horseracing organisation in the country to open a permanent sensory room on its premises, with facilities at both Cheltenham and Aintree Racecourses that will be available to anyone of any age who may need it on a raceday.

Following a consultation between The Jockey Club and the ‘Autism in Racing’ project, the decision was taken to open up facilities at both racecourses, which launched on race days at Cheltenham’s November Meeting and on Boylesports Becher Chase Day at Aintree in December respectively.

A sensory room is a specially designed room which provides comfort to people who have sensory processing problems, which can include people with autism. The rooms were first piloted on a racecourse last year as part of a trial by Autism in Racing, which was founded by broadcaster Bobby Beevers and saw a mobile unit head to racecourses up and down the country.

Beevers was himself diagnosed with autism last year around 12 months after his daughter Sophia was diagnosed and it was his desire to ensure that those with sensory issues were catered for at racecourses that led to him launching the project.

And he’s hoping that the launch of the first permanent sensory rooms is just the start. He said: “It’s phenomenal that The Jockey Club have created two permanent sensory rooms. The facilities are absolutely brilliant and everyone associated has done a brilliant job and should be immensely proud.

“It’s worth pointing out that both facilities have been created in areas which were previously for hospitality, which could have stayed as it was and earned thousands of pounds for the business. Instead, they’ve bought into what we’re trying to do and because of that we have a fantastic facility for people who need it.

“Families who may not have felt they were able to come racing in the past can now do so in a safe and supportive environment and that’s what it’s all about.”

The project is close to the hearts of many at The Jockey Club, including National Sales Manager Toby Lewis, whose two sons Freddie (seven) and Milo (three) have both been diagnosed with non-verbal autism.

Toby was one of the main voices behind the move to convert a hospitality box at Cheltenham into a permanent sensory room, and he explained that unexpected things like sights and smells mean that a day at the races can prove too much for them at times without a facility to turn to.

He said: “My two children have both been diagnosed with autism. They are both non-verbal and have sensory processing needs, which means that things like things like unexpected sounds, busy crowds and smells can trigger them.

“I was keen to see what we could do at The Jockey Club to cater for people with sensory needs and after mentioning the idea to our Regional Director Ian Renton, he was delighted to get on board. From that point we reached out to Bobby for his advice and it’s been a great partnership since.

“This space is for anybody with an additional need and we want it to be for everyone. Everybody’s needs are different, but having a facility like this means that there’s a safe space to turn to.”

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