This new initiative will promote an accommodating and positive Zoo experience for all visitors with a sensory issue.
Virginia Zoo Offers Sensory Inclusive Experience
NORFOLK, VA – The Virginia Zoo has partnered with KultureCity to make Zoo grounds and programs sensory inclusive. This new initiative will promote an accommodating and positive Zoo experience for all visitors with a sensory issue.
“We are honored to be a part of the KultureCity community and proud to offer a Zoo experience that everyone can enjoy,” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo.
The certification process entailed Virginia Zoo staff being trained on how to recognize visitors with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation. Sensory bags, which are available for free at the Zoo’s Membership Office, are equipped with noise canceling headphones, fidget tools and verbal cue cards. A weighted lap pad will also be available at the ZooTrain to all Zoo guests who may feel overwhelmed by the environment. There are also designated “Quiet Zones” around the Zoo for those who may need a more quiet and calm environment to regroup.
Sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by individuals with autism, dementia, PTSD and other similar conditions. One of the major barriers for these individuals is sensitivity to over stimulation and noise, which can be part of the Zoo experience. With its new certification, the Virginia Zoo is now better prepared to assist guests with sensory sensitivities in having the most comfortable time possible when attending.
Prior to coming to the Zoo, families can download the free KultureCity App where one can view what sensory features are available and where they can access them. Also, on the App is the Social Story which will provide a preview of what to expect while enjoying the Virginia Zoo.
“To know that you soon will be able to see families visit the Zoo, a true community bonding experience, with their loved ones who have a sensory challenge and who were not able to previously attend, is truly a heartwarming moment. Our communities are what shapes our lives and to know that the Virginia Zoo is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, is included in their community is amazing.” Dr. Julian Maha, Co-Founder, KultureCity.
For more information, visit virginiazoo.org/sensoryinclusion.
About the Virginia Zoo
The Virginia Zoo, located in Norfolk, Virginia, is home to more than 700 exceptional animals representing over 100 fascinating species. Founded in 1901 and residing on 53 beautifully landscaped acres, the Virginia Zoo has demonstrated a commitment to saving and protecting the world’s wildlife by inspiring a passion for nature and taking conservation action at home and around the world. The Virginia Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is recognized as a global leader in education, recreation, science, wildlife conservation, and animal care and welfare. For more than a century, the Zoo has connected adults, families and school children with the natural world and its wildlife. To learn more, visit www.virginiazoo.org.
KultureCity is a leading non-profit recognized nationwide for using their resources to revolutionize and effect change in the community for those with sensory needs; not just those with Autism. Since the program’s inception, KultureCity has created over 350 sensory inclusive venues in 4 countries; this includes special events such as: NFL Pro-Bowl, NFL Super Bowl, MLB All Star Weekend. KultureCity has won many awards for its efforts: NASCAR Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award in 2017, Cleveland Cavaliers’ Quiet Space Sensory Room at Quicken Loans Arena was a finalist for the 2018 Stadium Business Award, and the 2018 Clio Sports Silver for social good in partnership with Cleveland Cavaliers/Quicken Loans Arena. Recently, KultureCity was awarded one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2019 by FastCompany.