January 15, 2020 – KultureCity has partnered with the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo to improve the zoo’s ability to assist and accommodate guests with sensory needs. This new initiative will promote an accommodating and positive experience for all guests with a sensory issue that visits the SF Teaching Zoo.
The certification process entailed the staff at the SF Teaching Zoo being trained through KultureCity’s training program on how to recognize those guests with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation. Sensory bags, equipped with noise-canceling headphones (provided by Puro Sound Labs), fidget tools, verbal cue cards (produced in conjunction with Boardmaker) and weighted lap pads will also be available to all guests at the Gift Shop who may feel overwhelmed by the environment. A quiet area within the zoo is designated for those who may need a quieter and more secure environment. A grant awarded by the UF Medical Guild funded certification and materials for sensory inclusive events were provided by the generous contributions of Kids Only Dental Place, Grins and Giggles Pediatric Dentistry and Family Focus Eye Care.
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 overstimulation and noise, which is a part of the environment in a venue like the SF Teaching Zoo. With its new certification and continued support of local partners, UF Center for Autism and Related Disorders (UF CARD) and UF Health Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment (UF CAN), the SF Teaching Zoo is now better prepared to assist guests with sensory sensitivities in having the most comfortable and accommodating experience possible when visiting the zoo.
Prior to visiting, 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 a visit to the SF Teaching Zoo.
KultureCity is a leading non-profit recognized nationwide for using their 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 four countries; this includes special events such as NFL Pro-Bowl, NFL Super Bowl, MLB All Star Weekend. KultureCity has won many awards for its efforts: NASCAR Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award in 2017, Cleveland Cavaliers’ Quiet Space Sensory Room at Quicken Loans Arena was a finalist for the 2018 Stadium Business Award, and the 2018 Clio Sports Silver for social good in partnership with Cleveland Cavaliers/Quicken Loans Arena. Recently, KultureCity was awarded one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2019 by FastCompany.