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Memphis Zoo making changes to become more sensory inclusive

Updated: Mar. 4, 2021 at 6:46 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Memphis zoo is making some big changes so more people can take part in the fun.

“We can make simple changes to make our guests feel even more welcome at the Zoo than they already do,” said Haley Hembree Watson, HR Trainer at the Memphis Zoo.

It’s why the Memphis Zoo has adopted changes to become more sensory inclusive, creating an environment that’s more accessible to those who experience sensitivity to noise and overstimulation, which can include people with autism or PTSD.

Related: Memphis Zoo launches new sensory inclusive program

“So it came from our CEO Jim Dean, he was exposed to being autism inclusive at his previous workplaces, and he saw a huge opportunity to bring that here at the zoo,” said Watson.

The zoo now has five sensory awareness bags that visitors can check out for free.

The bags include noise-canceling headphones, verbal cue cards, and badges letting staff know that a guest may need assistance at some points during their visit.

There are also signs throughout the zoo letting guests know which areas may be noisy and which areas are quieter.

“Inclusion is about awareness and the very smallest of physical changes,” said Watson. So, by making these, we can better assist those guests who already come to the zoo with sensory processing issues, but we can also open up the zoo to more individuals who’ve always wanted to come, but didn’t think it was going to be good for them.”

The Zoo hopes their changes encourage other venues in the Bluff City to become sensory inclusive.

“And we want to kind of be a signaler in the community that this is very easy to do, and more locations and Memphis can do this if they want to and we can build a whole community of support around these individuals,” said Watson.

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