This summer, Akron Zoo became certified as sensory inclusive thanks to Jeff and Amy Belles, who run the local chapter of KultureCity, a non-profit organization dedicated to rethinking accessibility to create acceptance and inclusion for all individuals.
Amy Belles says they joined the organization last summer and approached the Akron Zoo about the idea, which was modeled after a sensory inclusive zoo initiative at the Birmingham Zoo in Alabama.
The Belles family says the Akron initiative includes zoo staff training, designed quiet areas, headphone zones, 10 sensory bags, which include fidget toys and more, and five weighted blankets.
The zoo will have five quiet zones for guests who are in need of a quiet break, including a guest comfort station, which is a private room for guests to use. The zoo has also designated a few areas that may be louder than normal, like the carousel, where guests with sensory needs may need to use noise cancelling headphones.
The Belles have already helped create a Quiet Space Sensory Room at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena earlier this year and currently are working with local organizations to create sensory inclusive facilities.
Visit akronzoo.org for more information.