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Zoo For All: Celebrating All Abilities

Posted by Terra Vleeshouwer-Neumann, Intern, Public Affairs
Photos by John Loughlin, Woodland Park Zoo

A volunteer leads a guided tour at hippos. Woodland Park Zoo is dedicated to providing experiences that connect everyone to wildlife and conservation. Blind and low vision guests can request a trained sighted guide for their visit. 
Here at the Woodland Park Zoo, we want everybody to feel welcome. One way we are working to include more of our community is through a series of Zoo For All events. Our most recent event on July 2, Celebrating All Abilities, was a huge hit. Despite the drizzly weather, the zoo was buzzing with excitement!

Service animals are welcome. Woodland Park Zoo is responsible for the health and well-being of all of its animals, including many sensitive species. Therefore, there are additional steps to bringing fully-trained service animals on grounds. Here are all the details for service animals.

Visitors learn about the special shoes our giraffe calf needed to correct his rear leg issues.
To celebrate and increase accessibility, Scootaround provided free scooter/wheelchair rentals, and over 30 community organizations came together for a resource fair on the North Meadow. Guests were offered Sensory Maps that highlight areas of the zoo they can enjoy by touching or playing, as well as areas that are likely to be noisy or overstimulating. The map also suggests quiet areas where guests who are overwhelmed by all the action can reflect and recharge. There is also an accessibility guide complete with a map that shows those with mobility concerns which parts of the zoo can be challenging.

ASL interpreters accompanied our Mobile Zoo presentation. Certified Sign Language interpreters can be arranged upon request to better experience zoo events, classes and/or programs. We require 14 calendar days’ notice to provide an interpreter. Click here for the details.
Inclusivity is important to Woodland Park Zoo year-round, and we love this event because it gives us the chance to hear directly from the community how we can help all of our guests have a great visit! Sensory tools are available to borrow at either Guest Services and in Zoomazium. Tools like noise-reduction headphones, fidgets and weighted blankets can help those with sensory sensitivities have an extraordinary zoo experience!
One-to-one aides or attendants of guests with disabilities receive complimentary admission. Woodland Park Zoo provides complimentary admission to a family member/friend who accompanies a Deaf guest to interpret scheduled programs (e.g. Animal Keeper Talks). If you have brought an interpreter, simply let a staff member know at any ticket window to receive the complimentary admission.
Zoo For All was a great opportunity for all visitors and staff to come together and learn about our community’s diversity! Here are a few thoughts from attendees at the event:

“I love that the zoo is opening and welcoming to all families and recognizing that inclusion matters.”

“I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone that doesn’t feel like they’re always included to be welcome at the zoo. It’s fun to see other people in the disability community making connections.”

If you have any feedback for the zoo around accessibility or inclusion, we'd love to hear from you. Please email us at or call us directly at 206.548.2500.

Baso works on a tiger painting at Zoo for All on July 2.
Another highlight of the event was a very special visit from local artist Baso Fibonacci, who painted live throughout the day. His artwork often depicts local wildlife, and his stunning murals can be seen around Seattle, including the at Capitol Hill Light Rail wall and the Sodo Track. We were thrilled to have Baso join us and we wanted to learn more about his insights and life story.

What made you decide to become an artist? How has your childhood influenced your work? 

I didn't grow up being into art. I would say my main influence in becoming an artist was moving in with a childhood friend Zach Rockstad when I was a young man. I would use his materials and make art and listen to him and his friends talk about graffiti.

Baso and friend in front of his bear mural. Photo courtesy of the artist.

How do you feel your work connects you to your community?

Up until the recently my art didn't connect with the community on an intellectual level. I'm understanding the more I make art what an impact it can have on affecting people. I've been painting a lot of portraits of people's pets over the past few years and have seen how happy it can make people. I've seen multiple people cry when receiving paintings I've done. Working on a recent series painting portraits of homeless people and adhering them to the viaduct has been the most meaningful body if work I've made. I've lived next to the viaduct for the past 10 years and it's always been a refuge for people without a roof. With it getting demolished it is one less place for people to exist and sleep when the weather is bad as it so often is during Seattle winters. Another way my art connects with the community is through painting murals. Murals and art is public spaces exposes art to a broader audience then fine art. Especially large murals, they have a totally different impact on the viewer than walking into a gallery. I really enjoy that aspect of them.

How do you hope your work will affect your audience?

It depends, on an aesthetic level I hope it will make their day to day lives a little more visually interesting and calming. If it's work like the portraits of homeless people or other more socially focused work I would hope to make people think about the issue involved.

Baso putting the finishing touches on an incredible tiger portrait. Photo courtesy of the artist.
How has your art helped you develop and thrive as a person?

Making art has affected the way I view the world. Especially as I move into painting from life more I start to look at objects around me in a different way. Right now I am working on a series of paintings for a zine I'm making. I'm painting all the fire hydrants on First Avenue between Yesler and Olive. Since starting this series I view the hydrants I see around in a different way, I guess i see them more clearly in a way and I feel like I'm seeing the rest of the world more clearly as well.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists, or wildlife enthusiasts? 

Patience is important for both. If you're out watching for birds or whatever there is a lot of waiting and a certain level of focus that is important. Art is similar in that you have to take the time and have focus if you want to make it right.

Baso working on the finer details of his tiger painting at Zoo for All.

Today’s Zoo For All theme celebrates the diversity of our bodies and minds. Do you have anything you would like to share with people who might feel like they are different?

Embrace what makes you different. The more comfortable you are with yourself the more others will be comfortable with whatever makes you different. It can also take a little of rising above, if others are uncomfortable let that stay with them and try not to let it bother you.

What have you enjoyed most about the event? Do you have any suggestions for us to improve next year’s event, or accessibility at the zoo in general?

I enjoyed seeing people's reactions and hearing their comments while I painted, it's rare for me to paint with people around like that. Next year tell the weather gods to have it not rain :). As far as accessibility at the zoo it seems pretty good, but there are always lots of ways to improve access, like a few spots around the zoo could use more sidewalks etc.

Quiet in Camouflage by Baso Fibonacci. See more of Baso's work:

Much of your art has a strong wildlife theme. How do you think nature and art are connected?

People have painted wildlife since the they were painting in caves. I think people want to connect to nature as much as they can especially as our lives are more and more disconnected from it. That's why people hike and camp and probably part of why I am drawn to it as a subject matter.

What do you think is the most important thing people can do to help wildlife today?

I guess do their best to educate themselves and others about the impacts we have on the world. Little things like avoiding using plastic as much as possible might seem trivial but it all adds up.

Do you have a favorite animal that you like to visit here at the zoo? 

Probably Carson the red panda, his tail is very fluffy. 

Volunteers explain how Hasani the giraffe was fitted with therapeutic shoes to correct a rear leg abnormality.
We want to give a big thank you to Baso and the entire community who came out to enjoy the day. Our next Zoo For All event will be Honoring Those Who Serve on Tuesday, July 30, we'll see you there!