"She Would Love That": Identifying Community Needs in a Multisensory Environment
Background: CareWays Community, a not-for-profit organization that provides community care services within the Illawarra region of Australia, and researchers from the University of Wollongong (Australia) collaborated to conduct research into the requirements and requests of the local community regarding the creation of a multisensory environment (MSE). Objectives: Guided by the principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR), we sought to gain an understanding of what the community wanted with respect to the design and implementation of a MSE, before its construction at a local community center managed by CareWays. Methods: A mixed methods approach was adopted to access as many participants as possible. Participants included both professional and familial caregivers and educators of potential clientele. A total of 24 people participated in either a focus group or a one-on-one telephone interview. Additionally, the Delphi method was used to survey a total of 87 respondents over two rounds to identify the specific equipment preferred for the MSE. Results: Participants expressed both their wishes and concerns regarding the proposed MSE. They wanted a safe, noncategorical environment able to cater to a range of users. They preferred private access, and wanted the MSE to be available for bookings across a wide range of times. Participants wanted the MSE to contain equipment that stimulated all senses, and identified specific items of equipment most preferred. Conclusions: This research enabled the identification of what the local community is seeking in a MSE. The research findings have been incorporated, as far as practicable, into the design and construction of the Careways MSE.