As part of the certification process, Zoo team members receive ongoing training on how to recognize and assist guests with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation.
"The Saint Louis Zoo is committed to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all of our guests," said Louise Bradshaw, Fred Saigh Director of Education, Saint Louis Zoo. "We strive to raise awareness of the needs and challenges faced by individuals with sensory processing disorders by supplying our team members with continuous training and by offering resources and accommodations to our guests."
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 is an enormous part of the environment in a venue like the Zoo. With its new certification, the Zoo is now better prepared to assist guests with sensory sensitivities in having the most comfortable and accommodating experience possible when visiting.
Zoo guests will see new KultureCity signage throughout the Zoo indicating areas where there may be sensory challenges, such as noise, temperature, smells or sounds, as well as quiet spaces for relaxing. In addition, guests may connect with any Zoo team member for assistance.
"To know that you soon will be able to see families visit an attraction such as a zoo, a true community binding 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 Saint Louis 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.
Prior to visiting the Zoo, as well as other events and attractions around the nation, families can download the free KultureCity app to view what sensory features are available and how they can access them. Included on the app, and on the Zoo's website, is the social story for the Zoo, which will provide a preview of what to expect while visiting.
For a link to the KultureCity app and more information on inclusion and accessibility information at the Saint Louis Zoo, visit stlzoo.org/accessibility.
KultureCity is a leading non-profit recognized nationwide for using its 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 the NFL Pro-Bowl, NFL Super Bowl and MLB All Star Weekend. KultureCity has won many awards for its efforts, including the NASCAR Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award in 2017 and the 2018 Clio Sports Silver for social good in partnership with Cleveland Cavaliers/Quicken Loans Arena. The Cleveland Cavaliers' Quiet Space Sensory Room at Quicken Loans Arena was a finalist for the 2018 Stadium Business Award, and recently, KultureCity was named one of the World's Most Innovative Companies for 2019 by FastCompany.