Soft matting and wall padding have been a feature of many rooms for a number of years. The addition of wedges, bean bags and other shapes in a space can offer furniture which will get the student in a good seating or prone position. It can also make a room fun. Floor matting and wall padding will offer a high degree of safety in a designated area. It can also contribute to the décor and mood of the room. The inclusion or exclusion of soft padding can also have a great influence on the practitioner’s attitude to the purpose of the room. An area with minimal matting will be seen as a place more for creativity and structured learning. In the context of multisensory environments, the predominantly soft space will be viewed more for relaxation, a passive self-discovery area, which can allow a student a safe space to relax and reflect to discover bubble tubes, fibre optics and other tactile and auditory stimuli.
In many rooms, the floor and wall padding could be a single colour as multi-coloured padding in a space can create overwhelming visual clutter for some. A single colour room, say cream or white, alternatively black or dark blue, may be preferable. Projectors and coloured spotlights will appear a great deal brighter against a light surface and the lighting may be used to change the ambience of the space. Fibre optics, torches and UV light will appear brighter against a dark surface, so black or dark blue may be effective for students who have a visual loss.
Conversely, floor matting and wall padding can be made in any colour, so it may be a suggestion to have the floor mats made colour reversible e.g. dark blue on one side and say cream on the other, (white is so clinical). This will allow the practitioner to change the colour on the floor. Contrasting light and dark colours create a distinction in the room.
For students with visual impairments, or those who find visual information difficult to process, it may be best to create colour contrast between the floor and the wall, or between the bubble tube base and floor. They will be able to see how big or small the area is and gain much better spatial awareness.
There is a strong argument for multi-coloured spaces, which communicate a cheerful perspective to both the practitioner and student.
In summary, there should be flexibility within the room or space to change the colours to suit the student and practitioner. It is very easy to fall into the trap of creating a padded cell or thinking that multi-coloured rooms may be suited to a younger age group. Soft mats should be viewed as part of the furniture in a room. The colour will not only affect the ambience of the room but a learner’s well-being in terms of their own preferences for colour, light, movement and space.