What is sensory mapping

Sensory mapping is a simple, flexible technique that identifies sensory highlights with a view to creating inclusive and engaging visitor experiences. It essentially consists of individuals or small groups exploring a location and mapping where they encounter particularly strong sensory stimuli, including, but not limited to sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes. Mapping can also make note of other things people experience in response to these sensory experiences such as emotions, feelings and memories.

What does it do?

Sensory mapping can be used to identify priorities for enhancing the visitor experience, planning access improvements and developing interpretation and information plans. It will enable you to;

  • Identify areas of greatest sensory interest, using the information to prioritise access improvements so that these areas can be reached by everyone.
  • Review the level of sensory interest along an accessible route, or at a destination, using the information to identify opportunities to enhance it.
  • Identify where visitors tend to go, and where they tend to pause, you can then use this information to plan interpretation and seating.

Where can sensory mapping be used?

We haven't yet found a site where sensory mapping couldn't be used. We have mapped with park rangers, architects, farmers, adults with learning disabilities, children with sensory impairments, older people and staff and volunteers. The tool has been tested at the Eden Project and in urban parks, wildlife sites, wide expanses of the countryside, forests, farms and play areas.

Sensory mapping in practice

Activities at little harbour hospiceWythenshawe park, Manchester

Delegates at our conference try out sensory mapping in Wythenshawe park. Teams of four sketch out sensory 'hits' to develop a map of all the sensory hot spots

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Sensory mapping with school studentsSensory mapping with students at Doubletrees school

A design consultation day working with young people at a special school in Cornwall. Sensory mapping was used as a tool to evaluate the school grounds and input on a design process.

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Activities at little harbour hospiceHow does heritage feel?

Using sensory mapping as a tool for exploring sensory engagement in the heritage environment.

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Guidance

Outdoor access design factsheets - free guidance

Access Chain - a tool we created for reviewing access from the user's perspective

Access statements - samples for you to use

Accessible information design - making your communication available to everyone is a crucial part of inclusive design

Our publications - for more information and guidance

Consultancy

Sensory Trust offer consultancy and training around using sensory mapping as a technique to help you understand how an audience might interact with your space. Contact us to find out more

Sense stickers

Beautifully hand-drawn stickers depicting the five senses. They have many uses from encouraging multi-sensory exploration to mapping trails.

sense stickers