Cincinnati Zoo Raises Awareness for “Zoo Access for All” Program

Posted August 10, 2018

Zoo Access for AllSpecial Day Planned for August 14

CINCINNATI (August 10, 2018) – The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, in partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC), has been working to become the most welcoming, accessible, and inclusive Zoo for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. The Zoo has made great progress toward this goal since the effort, funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), began in 2017 and is inviting guests with special needs to come for its first Zoo Access for All Day on Tuesday, August 14.

“About 300 Zoo employees and volunteers have been trained to better engage with individuals with developmental disabilities.  We’ve also received guidance from a family advisory council to help us determine what the needs are and to meet them,” said Rhiannon Hoeweler, VP of Visitor Engagement and Fun.

In addition to teaching staff skills to promote inclusion through CCHMC’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities (LEND) training program, the Zoo will offer (on or before August 14) adult changing tables, sensory maps, a skip-the-line rides access pass, social narratives, visual supports, and sensory bags filled with oral motor chewy tubes, fidgets, bubble makers, noise cancelling headphones, sunglasses, etc. A calming room and another family restroom that is sensory friendly will be ready in early 2019.

Young girl and mother hugging“The work that the Cincinnati Zoo is doing to help families of children with disabilities is incredibly helpful to my entire family. The leadership at the Zoo is listening to the perspectives of kids who experience the Zoo differently and to the experts who understand these differences well. I am grateful to be part of this process,” said Heidy Tandy, member of the family advisory council.

Zoo Access for All Day is a great opportunity for guests to check out what the Zoo has done to ensure that all members of the community have the opportunity to make a positive connection to wildlife and wild places. In addition, organizations that provide services for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, as well as cultural organizations within the city who are also focusing on this community, will be on site from 9am – Noon to highlight what they offer. Visit for a complete list of participants and more information about the Zoo Access for All program.

“The Zoo Access for All initiative is an excellent example of how the Cincinnati Zoo strives to be an inclusive place for everyone in our community. We are thrilled to be partnering with them and supporting their efforts to be the most welcoming and inclusive zoo in America for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. This is a unique opportunity for two world-class organizations to collaborate and open doors for many families in the Tri-State area,” said Dr. Jen Smith, director of LEND.

The Zoo is committed to giving every individual equitable access to the Zoo no matter their ability, economic status, social structure or race.  That commitment is emphasized in the Zoo’s vision for the future, and funds raised for its Home to Roam capital campaign will be used to make the Zoo experience better for everyone.