Before You Visit
A good and easy way to begin is to check the Web site of the zoo or aquarium. The site may provide some basic information about the facility. More zoos are including accessibility information on the Internet. This is an easy place to get started.
If you do not have Internet access, call the zoo. When you call, ask if there is a person who is the Accessibility Coordinator. The Accessibility Coordinator should be able to answer your questions. Chances are there is not a single staff person with that exclusive responsibility for accessibility. If the zoo does not have an Accessibility Coordinator, the next step is to ask if there is a person that has knowledge of accessibility.
With this question, you potentially are going to be in contact with many different people. You should stress a specific access issue, if possible. For example, if you use a wheelchair, the person that could answer questions about access of the facilities is from the Building and Grounds Department. If you have a visual impairment and are looking for adapted materials in Braille, large print, recordings, etc., consider contacting the Education Department or the specific animal buildings with handouts for their animal exhibits. Also, request printed materials that could help facilitate your visit. These materials could include:
Accessibility Maps - These maps should provide general information about the institution. However, they should provide important accessibility information related to your disability. If you need it, request an alternate format such as large print. Some institutions have developed 3-D maps in Braille to assist people with more severe visual impairments.
Access Brochures - These brochures should provide general accessibility information on auxiliary aids, programs, contact people, services and other access information. Typically, these are helpful for group leaders such as activity directors, special education instructors, group home staff, etc.
Special Events - A special event brochure should have the events for the year. If you are interested in one particular special event, ask if they have a more detailed flyer or brochure. Ask for additional details about the special event location, activities, etc. While the event might not be able to be moved, other accommodations or options for your participation could be possible.
Educational Classes - All education departments will have a brochure or flyer about their upcoming classes. Typically, the classes are listed by seasons. If you decide that you would like to attend a specific class, call the instructor or leader about the requirements you have. Different auxiliary aids, changes in class location, adaptation of materials and/or information, etc. should be discussed. Some facilities are still learning about providing inclusive opportunities for programs. As a result, you might need to assist them with this process.
Group Rates - Many facilities have a group rate or reduced rate for people with disabilities. If they do not have a group or reduced rate, ask if there are any special-price days. Some institutions have free or reduced-rate days. These special rates or days can sometimes save a substantial amount of money.