The Brookfield Zoo outside Chicago is has implemented ways to become more inclusive to all guests, as part of its “Zoo for All” initiative. The zoo has opened a calming, “sensory-friendly” family room and an Inclusion Resource Center for families who have children with disabilities.
The sensory room is a small, quiet space with Wi-Fi access and sensory-support materials, like fidget toys and weighted blankets. It also has blackout curtains and dimmable lights, which can help children who are feeling overwhelmed relax and recharge.
The zoo has a full-time inclusion specialist who is available during the day to help with accommodations as needed. “This is hugely important for the zoo because one in five people in the U.S. has some type of disability, and the zoo recognizes that. It’s important for us to be accommodating for every guest who comes through our gates.”
At the Inclusion Resource Center guests can check out noise-reducing headphones, social stories, which describe a zoo visit in a picture-story format, and visual schedules, which help to offer structure to the day by using visual icons on a map.
The zoo worked on the project with an advisory council that included parents who have children with disabilities.
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