Beginning Friday, July 7th, the Akron Zoo is the first zoo in Ohio, and only the second in the country, to be certified sensory inclusive by KultureCity out of Birmingham, Alabama.
Sensory inclusive means the zoo is now accessible and accommodating to those with sensory needs, including autism. Upon entry, the zoo is now offering sensory bags that include noise-canceling headphones, fidget toys, and weighted blankets. The zoo now features five quiet zones for guests who need a break from the everyday commotion that is common at the zoo. There is also a guest comfort station, which is a private room for guests only, giving them a place to relax.
"One of our goals is to make the zoo accessible to everyone," Akron Zoo President and CEO Doug Piekarz said in a statement. "By partnering with the very effective team at KultureCity we know that the zoo is more welcoming to all families and we are now equipped to offer a better experience for families with sensory needs."
(Akron Zoo President and CEO Doug Piekarz, Akron Zoo Marketing and Group Sales Manager Elena Bell, Amy Belles, Carson Belles, Jeff Belles)
This isn't the first venture KultureCity has taken up in Northeast Ohio. With the help of Amy and Jeff Belles of Akron, KultureCity worked with Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers to make Quicken Loans Arena sensory inclusive. The Belles family, including 12-year-old Carson, who was diagnosed with autism at 2-years-old, worked with employees and helped train them, both at the Q and at the Akron Zoo, to be more sensory inclusive.
Training for all Akron Zoo employees lasted about 6 or 7 months, and now they're equipped to help make those with sensory needs more comfortable when they walk through the zoo.
See more at AkronZoo.org.