BLOOMINGTON — Miller Park Zoo will become the first certified sensory-inclusive zoo in Illinois, making the city-owned facility more accessible to those with autism and other disabilities.
Each bag will have noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools and verbal cue cards. They will be available to any guest who may feel overwhelmed by the environment.
"We feel the zoo is for all of the community, whatever their abilities, disabilities or backgrounds are," said Jay Tetzloff, who leads the zoo and city parks, recreation and cultural arts department. "This is a nice step for us to help a different population in our community that we may not have really addressed in the past."
Staff members at Miller Park Zoo completed training through KultureCity on how to recognize guests with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation, according to a statement issued by the city of Bloomington.
The KultureCity app can be downloaded for a trip to the zoo and other sensory-certified locations.
"This is going to be a great addition for children and adults with disabilities to have positive experience in yet another environment at the zoo," said Laura Furlong, CEO of Marcfirst, a nonprofit corporation that supports people with developmental disabilities and families in McLean County.
"I think that is a very responsive way of including people with disabilities at the zoo," she added. "I am very happy that we have that level of awareness and support for families with disabilities in our community."
Miller Park Zoo will join the Cleveland Cavaliers, Nashville Predators, Birmingham Zoo and other organizations that have completed the training and implementation process.