WCS’s (Wildlife Conservation Society) zoos and aquarium have partnered with KultureCity to make the Bronx Zoo and Prospect Park Zoo sensory inclusive with the New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo and Queens Zoo working toward certification in the coming months. This new initiative will promote an accommodating and positive experience for guests with sensory sensitivities during their visits to these iconic New York City wildlife parks.

“The Bronx Zoo and all of WCS’s wildlife parks in New York City strive to create a welcoming and inclusive experience for each visitor,” said Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President and Director of the Bronx Zoo. “Our partnership with KultureCity enables us to provide a safe, comfortable environment for those with sensory challenges to enjoy and learn about animals and wildlife conservation.”

The certification process entailed the staff at the zoos being trained by leading medical professionals 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, and verbal cue cards (produced in conjunction with Boardmaker) will also be available to all guests who may feel overwhelmed by the environment. Guests can look for signage in the park to help identify areas of high volume (“Headphone Zones”) and areas to take a break (“Quiet Areas”)

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. With their new certification, the WCS zoos will be better prepared to assist guests with sensory sensitivities in having the most comfortable and accommodating experience possible.

Prior to attending a certified venue, 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 zoo.

“To know that you soon will be able to see families go to the zoo 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 WCS is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, is included in their community is amazing.” Dr. Julian Maha, Co-Founder, KultureCity.

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 4 countries.