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Zoo for All: Celebrating Inclusion and Access

Posted by Rubai Aurora, Community Engagement Specialist

Editor’s note: At the heart of our mission, we want everyone to love animals. Sharing the zoo experience means making our programming, physical spaces and storytelling accessible to all. Your zoo has been on a diversity and inclusion journey—mapping out ways we can more genuinely welcome and represent our community. In 2018 and beyond, you’ll see your zoo continue to work toward being a place where every individual can safely and profoundly take part in being a voice for conservation action.

Woodland Park Zoo believes the zoo should be inclusive for all. On July 5, 2018, Woodland Park Zoo hosted our first Zoo for All, a day to celebrate our commitment to inclusion, and to acknowledge and honor families and individuals from the special needs community.

More than just a day:

Zoo for All was made possible through guidance from nonprofit partners in the community, including The Arc of King County, Special Olympics USA GamesNorthwest CenterNorthwest ADA CenterKindering, Arc of King County and others. These organizations hosted booths at the zoo throughout the day to provide information about their services as well as distributed complimentary tickets for members of their communities for the day.

“Zoo for All is a day to celebrate families coming together here at the zoo,” says Alejandro Grajal, Woodland Park Zoo’s president and CEO. “But our pledge to inclusivity is year round. We are constantly looking at ways to strengthen our commitment, improve our processes and make them more equitable. Creating this event has been a wonderful chance to truly learn from the community, and we hope to approach more Zoo for All events with the same spirit in the future.”
Thank you Seattle Parks and Rec!
Hosting Zoo for All is part of Woodland Park Zoo’s greater commitment to making the zoo a place of inclusion in which people of all backgrounds and abilities feel welcome and inspired to make conservation a priority in their lives. While Zoo for All was just one day, we hope that members from the zoo community, staff and volunteers continue to learn and grow together to make the zoo accessible and welcoming for all.
Thank you The Arc King County!
Here are just a few highlights from Zoo for All:

A new sensory zoo map was created to help identify spaces for all different sensory needs. Sensory Grounds Map:

Staff Reconfigured Zoomazium’s nature play space to make it suitable for children with autism and other sensory disorders. They also created a storybook in partnership with the Boyer Children’s Clinic to introduce and prepare new visitors to the space. Read the story here:

Picnic on the North Meadow! Families were encouraged to join in a community bring-your-own lunch celebration on the zoo’s North Meadow where the zoo offered free lemonade.

Photo via Instagram by @kikiatlarge 
Sensory Garden opened! The opening of the long-awaited Seattle Sensory Garden, an addition to the zoo’s Rose Garden designed for those with and without disabilities to enjoy debuted on July 5. The new garden includes a variety of elements for guests to touch and explore at their leisure, including deep-toned wind chimes, temple bells, and guiros—rectangular wooden posts with slots that create noise when touched. There is also an accessible paved pathway, special sensory-friendly carpeting, and raised beds to make for easier interaction with the variety of trees, shrubs and bulbs planted throughout the garden.

Guests were also treated to coloring books with conservation themes, courtesy of our sponsor partner Savers.

Big thank you to Access Medical Equipment—they provided additional necessary powered scooters/wheelchairs for our July 5 event.

Nemesia shows off an ambassador animal during Zoo for All’s Creature Feature in Zoomazium, while Karen interprets in American Sign Language. 
Thank you, ADWAS!
Thank you Northwest Center!
We would like to thank all of our partners and guests for making our first Zoo for All a success! As we continue to dive into access and inclusion programming, we look forward to hearing directly from our members and community on ways we can do better and make the zoo a welcome, safe and fantastic experience for all families and individuals.
Our south entrance got a color infusion with this incredible temporary mural created by Special Olympics Washington athletes and Seattle-based artist Catherine Mayer.

A shining example of inclusion:

ZooCorps is Woodland Park Zoo’s teen volunteer program and extends to all teens, no matter their abilities. The teens are truly committed to making their team an inclusive and accessible experience for all. We were thrilled when the Special Olympics USA Games highlighted our teens as one of their 2018 Game Changers, read more about our awesome teens here: 

The WIN pledge:

Woodland Park Zoo also took the WIN pledge in early 2018. What does that mean? The Welcome Inclusion (WIN) Initiative is a grassroots alliance. WIN is a public awareness and capacity building campaign that will facilitate rapid, transformative community change to promote a world of inclusion for children and adults with intellectual, behavioral, and social differences through 3 key activities: Awareness, Community and Training.