Food provides nourishment, but dining can also be an act of socialization, community, leisure and love. For many, a restaurant experience is generally a pleasurable one, but for individuals with autism, developmental differences, and other sensitivities, a restaurant setting can be unpleasant and overwhelming.

Inclusion Dining offers a sensory-friendly restaurant experience designed to accommodate individuals with autism and other special needs. Guests are offered staggered seating times to prevent lines and crowding, special menu items for special diets, dimmed lights, music played at a lower volume, tabletop activities, therapists and educators available for support, social stories to assist with ordering and waiting, and modified picture menus.

Prior to the pandemic, Accessible Festivals partnered with New Jersey restaurants including Harper’s Table, George & Martha’s, and TJ’s to deliver the experience. News outlet NJ.com created a video overview of the program, available here. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Inclusion Dining had understandably come to a halt. However, this Spring it will return with a new twist!

Accessible Festivals will be presenting Inclusion Dining & Jams, combining elements of the previous dining experiences and elements of previous Inclusion Festivals in partnership with ArtsQuest, a non-profit organization providing access to art, culture, and educational programs in Bethlehem, PA.

Participants will be offered limited seating at an in-person event with  comprehensive Covid safety measures in place including reduced capacity, social distancing, mask wearing, temperature checks upon entry, enhanced cleaning protocols, and improved indoor ventilation.

In addition to dining, there will be a live music performance presented in a sensory-friendly format with positive, inspiring lyrics and opportunities to play, sing-along, be guided through yoga-inspired dance movements, create collaborative art, and more. The performance will also be live-streamed online, available to participants in the comfort and safety of their own homes by donation.

Like any Accessible Festivals event, the performance will be presented with accessibility features to support a diverse range of abilities. Visual, auditory, cognitive, physical, and sensory accommodations will include American Sign Language, captions, audio descriptions, and more.

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