Unique Exhibit Accessibility and Issues with Live Animals
A visit to an aquarium or zoo by a person with a disability presents some unique challenges. Zoos and aquariums are visual places that can be very challenging for a person with low or no vision. Zoos typically cover several acres of property. This distance to travel can be difficult for people with mobility impairments or limited stamina. Accessible transportation systems such as buses or trams are very helpful. Other rental items such as scooters, wheelchairs and adult strollers, while not necessary by law, will enhance the visit for a disabled guest.
|Museum exhibit with solid glass viewing windows.|
If used outside, some type of shading or silhouette figure is necessary to prevent birds from running into the windows.
One unexpected incident happened with a window installation at a baboon grotto. Apparently the male baboon saw his reflection and thought another baboon was in his territory. He ran up a wall and up and over the viewing window into the public walkway. After a few moments of looking at people and no baboon, he quickly retreated back into his grotto. After some changes were made to the exhibit and the viewing window was tilted, no other incidents occurred.
Some exhibits have enhanced their viewing windows by placing heat coils next to them. The animals typically lay next to the windows during cooler weather. This design provides every guest, including people with low vision, the ability to see an animal within inches. Interaction between service animals and live animal collections provides a unique and sometimes dangerous situation. Service animals provide many people with independence, assistance and support. However, some wild animals look at service animals, particularly dogs, as a threat. Male Kudus have been known to charge and injure themselves on the barricades trying to get to the dog.
|A kid trying to touch fish in a fish pond inside a museum.|
Options should be offered to allow people needing assistance to enjoy these exhibits without endangering the welfare of their animals and that of the animal collection. Some options could be to kenneling the dog or have someone hold the dog as they are toured through the area. The other option would be for that individual to avoid that area completely.
These and many other factors are important when planning your visit to a zoo. Important issues may require research into the facility. (See "A Day at the Zoo" for details.)