A Zoo for All - Access and Inclusion at Brookfield Zoo

 
 

Inclusion is in our Nature

At Brookfield Zoo, we believe in building an inclusive conservation movement and cultivating holistic approaches to our programming. Through our A Zoo for All initiative, we strive to provide opportunities that bring meaningful experiences to all guests. We recognize that up to 20% of our guests have some level of disability and we are committed to providing innovative engagement opportunities for everyone.

Life and Work Skills

Brookfield Zoo provides programs that train individuals with disabilities for employment and volunteer opportunities. Some of these programs include:

Good WorksThe Good Works program helps currently enrolled high school students with disabilities develop job skills for the future by placing them in volunteer positions around the zoo. The majority of the students work at Hamill Family Play Zoo where they are trained to help with a variety of different tasks including prep work, refreshing play settings, and organizing donated recyclables.
ProjectSEARCH: In partnership with Helping Hand Center, Community Support Services (CSS), the LaGrange Area Department of Special Education (LADSE), and Elmhurst College, adults with disabilities are given the opportunity to gain valuable job skills through their participation in three 10-week internships here at Brookfield Zoo. Participants get to handle food in our restaurants, complete office and administrative tasks, gain customer service, retail and merchandising skills, and so much more. These highly transferrable skills make these interns competitive candidates for future employers. 

Inclusion in CZS Programs and Customized Programming

With the guidance of our two inclusion specialists, we continually work to create inclusive opportunities within our current programs whenever possible. We continue to assess and revise our zoo programs and exhibits to better serve guests with disabilities.

Learn more about our inclusive programs: 

Zoo CampAt Zoo Camp, we remove barriers so all children can participate, regardless of ability. This means that children with and without disabilities and special needs are participating together in camp activities. Zoo Camp provides reasonable accommodations so activities can be adapted to individual needs and abilities. We are pleased to have an inclusion specialist dedicated entirely to our Zoo Camp and overnight staff who supports our counselor staff in providing inclusive experiences and making sure the zoo is for all campers!
Family Fun Saturdays: This program is for young children with autism and their families. Designed for early learners on the autism spectrum, participants are invited to come to Hamill Family Play Zoo to connect with animals, nature, and their peers in a nurturing and inclusive environment. 
Art360: This is a 10-week community based art program that brings art, learning, creativity, and social inclusion full circle. The program is geared toward teens and young adults ages 15-25. Participants will engage in hands on, therapeutic, and social activities through the creative arts and the social atmosphere of Brookfield Zoo. Individuals will observe various animals in their habitats, while enhancing social skills and will discover new forms of self-expression through art techniques.

Brookfield Zoo Guest Experiences

This year, we added a sensory-friendly family room and a resource center to Hamill Family Play Zoo. Additionally, we provide, upon request, BZ Care Kits for guests with noise-reducing headphones, visual schedules, self-identifying badges, social stories, and more. 

Sensory Friendly Family Room: This is a new quieter area located in Hamill Family Play Zoo, which provides a low sensory environment and a calming atmosphere. It includes a variety of fidgets and sensory-support materials, comfortable seating, and dimmable lights.
Resource Center: Another new space located within Hamill Family Play Zoo. The resource center provides guests with resources, items, and materials that help enhance their experience here at the zoo. Resources include visual schedules, social stories, noise-reducing headphones, magazines, articles, and more.

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Zoo Accessibility: The staff and volunteers of the Chicago Zoological Society welcome you to Brookfield Zoo and are happy to answer your questions. Brookfield Zoo makes a concerted effort to make its grounds, pathways, buildings, exhibits, and programs accessible to all visitors. The information contained in the Accessibility Guide will be helpful in answering your questions.
Accessible Amenities: BZ Care Kits are available at the North and South Guest Relations.  These kits are designed for guests with sensory disabilities and include zoo visual schedule books, noise-reducing headphones, name tags, if lost ID bracelets and stickers. Large-print maps with access information are also available at our North and Guest Relations to give you special instructions before entering the park. To learn more about our accessible amenities, visit our Zoo Accessibility page. 

Community Outreach & Events

Our animal ambassadors and program staff provide community-based opportunities for people with disabilities to interact with animals. We also provide complimentary Brookfield Zoo visits and events for schools and organizations serving individuals with disabilities and their families. Visit our Events page to find out more information about these opportunities.

Join us for Brookfield Zoo Goes Blue for Autism on Saturday, April 7, 2018. Register here.

Access and Inclusion at the Hamill Family Play Zoo was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Grant # MA-10-16-0053-16.
 

Our Partners in Zoo for All:

We are grateful to all of our community partners who contribute their time, resources, and expertise to help us grow and enhance our A Zoo for All initiative.