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Virginia Zoo offering new sensory friendly experience, promoting inclusivity

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Posted at 11:33 AM, Mar 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-04 11:33:13-05

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.

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.

“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.

“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," said Dr. Julian Maha, Co-Founder of KultureCity.

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