Texas’s oldest and largest zoo is now certified as “sensory inclusive” for guests who may need a quieter and more secure environment while visiting the 106-acre park.
The Dallas Zoo is partnering with KultureCity to ensure its programs, events, and campus are all sensory inclusive. To become certified, staff members were trained by leading medical professionals on how to recognize guests with sensory needs, and how to handle a sensory overload situation.
Sensory bags, equipped with noise-canceling headphones (provided by Puro Sound Labs), fidget tools, verbal cue cards (produced in conjunction with Boardmaker), and weighted lap pads will also be available to those who may feel overwhelmed by the environment. Dallas Zoo guests will also have special access to a dedicated sensory room designed by medical professionals during designated Sensory Friendly events for those who may need a quieter space. (Guests can pick up a sensory bag at the Information Booth across from the Endangered Species Carousel.)
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. With this new certification, the Dallas Zoo is now better prepared to assist guests with sensory sensitivities in having the most comfortable and accommodating experience possible.
“Making the park fully sensory inclusive has been an incredible Zoo-wide team effort, and shows our dedication to serving our community and families with sensory sensitivities,” said Tonya McDaniel, Dallas Zoo’s Education Supervisor of Family and Intergenerational Learning. “We want everyone to have an opportunity to join us in creating a better world for animals.”
“To know that you will now be able to see families enjoy the Dallas Zoo 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 we’re grateful the Zoo is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, is included in their community,” said Dr. Julian Maha, Co-Founder, KultureCity.
Prior to visiting the Dallas Zoo, families can download the free KultureCity App to 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 at the Zoo.
This fall, the Dallas Zoo will also ensure its Halloweekend event accommodates individuals with sensory sensitivities. On Oct. 26, the Zoo will host Quiet Hour from 8-9 a.m. with sound and light modifications in ZooNorth, along with hands-on activities, bounce houses, games, and more. The designated quiet zone will be available in the Tiger Classroom from 8-11 a.m., as well.
The Zoo also offers a free monthly program for individuals with early-stage dementia through the Alzheimer’s Association. To register for a Wild Gatherings program, visit communityresourcefinder.org or call 1-800-272-3900. And returning Sunday, April 19, 2020, is Dallas Zoo’s annual Sensory Friendly Day, where hundreds of families can enjoy the Zoo in a reduced stimulatory experience. Registration will open this spring at DallasZoo.com.