Touch a Truck: The all-inclusive event touching on the big issues
There are successful community events, and then there are successful community events which embrace diversity and inclusion.
Touch A Truck, a collaboration between Feros Care, The F.A.R.M Centre in Freeling South Australia, and the Light Regional Council, was unequivocally the latter.
Taking place on Sunday 19th March, approximately 3000 people enjoyed getting up close and personal with over 20 different trucks and machinery. Attracting a ‘truck load’ of positive reviews, this free family-friendly day created opportunities for a diverse range of people with different needs to come together and try new activities.
In addition to the awe-inspiring wheels, there were jumping castles, face painting, a petting zone, and an Aussie event rite of passage, a sausage sizzle. Most importantly, this crowd-pleasing line up of fun activities paved the way for bigger-picture goals to be achieved.
Supporting disabilities & facilitating connection
Capturing the true spirit of inclusivity, a sensory friendly zone was built into the event blueprint. A hugely popular attraction for families with noise sensitive children, it served as a ‘safe space’ for those seeking a calmer and quieter way to enjoy the day.
Paired with a dedicated ‘Sensory Hour’ when all honking and loud music were stopped, it was a game-changer for anyone with higher sensory needs. People who have been unable to experience events like this in the past were able to participate like everyone else and feel a genuine sense of belonging.
This focus on inclusiveness was echoed throughout the event design and execution, bringing ear-to-ear smiles to the faces of kids with disabilities, their families, and the community in general.
Encouraging interactivity and connection, Touch A Truck was also the perfect platform for locals and visitors alike to expand their social networks. Families of children with sensory processing disorders mingled happily with other families, enjoying all the event had to offer without the fear of judgement from others.
Perhaps most notably, it prompted important dialogue around inclusivity in the community for people with disabilities. Throughout the day, Feros Care Local Area Coordinators engaged with a wide variety of people, collating their feedback on the event, the activities, and how the community can be more inclusive.
Starting conversations that make a difference
Feros Care Community Development Coordinator, Leasha Dahlitz, was thrilled with the event outcomes and the meaningful conversations it inspired.
“During Touch A Truck, our team members talked to people, provided information and links to local services, and dug deeper to understand their needs and how they can be better supported,” she said.
These enlightening exchanges revealed that 76% felt more connected to the community as a result of attending the event.
Over half said they were not aware of local inclusive community organisations when they arrived, but now have a better understanding of what’s available.
Further to this, 71% indicated they are very likely to attend other inclusive events that have a focus on families, carers and young people.
Other valuable insights include a strong desire for more events like Touch A Truck, programs and activities for teens and young teens, families and social groups, young or school aged children, and neurodivergent children.
Also, the Feros team learned that there is a growing demand for free and low-cost activities, indoor play options, a park run, archery, more inclusive sports, art and cooking classes, more AAC boards, and wheelchair friendly areas/activities where children can shift on to the ground and play.
Building community capacity
Inviting eventgoers to have their say gave the community a voice and a sense of empowerment to facilitate change, and help shape future initiatives.
“It’s really important for us to understand what our community wants, so we can work with them to achieve it,” says Leasha.
“Touch A Truck was a great way for us to nurture community relationships and ensure the families of children with disabilities feel heard, respected and included.”
Moving forward, the development of frameworks to foster sustainable change and empower communities to address their concerns will remain at the forefront for Feros. Events like Touch A Truck play an integral role in this, making accessible and accepting environments the norm, and changing societal attitudes and behaviours.