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'Small but impactful changes:' Wisconsin’s first ‘Certified Sensory Friendly’ Airbnb to open in Williams Bay

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WILLIAMS BAY, Wis. (CBS 58) – A new Airbnb is the first of its kind in Wisconsin.

The property in Williams Bay is 'certified sensory friendly' helping make travel easier for families with special needs.

The home features neutral colors, soft lighting and new furniture. The goal is to help make the transition into a new space as easy and comfortable as possible for someone with sensory needs.

"New environments can be very overstimulating for a child who has a sensory disorder or autism," Property manager and Sensory City Director of Development Kimberly Buonavolanto said. "So it’s very important that we play to their sensitivities, so we want to make sure that their environment is calm, it’s not overstimulating and they have tools that in case they do get over-stimulated, that we can deescalate and have these de-escalation strategies in place and ready to go."

The home, located just a few blocks from Geneva Lake, also has sensory and safety kits ready for families to use during their stay. The kits have different toys, a pair of headphones, weighted blanket and communication boards.

Buonavolanto and her family had never rented out their vacation home, but she said because there are so few accommodations available for special needs families, they decided now was the time. 

"You have an easier time finding a pet friendly accommodation than you do an autism friendly accommodation," Buonavolanto said. "We need to put people first and become more accommodating to special needs families."

The home was certified by the organization, Sensory City, which works to create sensory friendly spaces for people of all needs across the world.

"Small but impactful changes make a big difference," Buonavolanto said.

Her son has sensory needs, so none of this is new to her.

"There's a huge amount of families out there that have the same struggles as I do as far as traveling, as far not wanting to travel or wanting to, but feeling like there isn't anywhere for them to go,” she said. "I’m very hopeful that one this gets out, those changes will start happening, the ball will get rolling and more and more places will do the same."

The Airbnb opens August 3. The listing and more information can be found on Airbnb's website.

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