Blank Park Zoo
Blank Park Zoo

Blank Park Zoo’s Partnership with nonprofit KultureCity aims to help guests with sensory needs

July 17, 2019

Blank Park Zoo’s Partnership with nonprofit KultureCity aims to help guests with sensory needs


July 17, 2019, Des Moines, IA – Blank Park Zoo is excited to announce a partnership with KultureCity to develop the Sensory Friendly Zoo Initiative. The goals of this initiative are to raise awareness of Sensory Processing Disorders (SPDs) among Zoo staff and throughout the community, to increase accessibility throughout the Zoo grounds for visitors with SPDs and to promote inclusive experiences for visitors with SPDs. The initiative came about after a partnership with a team of leaders in the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute’s 2018 Community Leadership Program.

“We are the only KultureCity certified attraction in Iowa and we are excited to offer this program to enhance our inclusion efforts for all guests,” said Anne Shimerdla, president and COO of Blank Park Zoo.

With the Zoo’s partnership with KultureCity, families with children who have Sensory Processing Disorders now have access to many resources at the Zoo including noise canceling headphones, fidget toys and weighted lap pads. The Zoo has installed signage identifying “quiet zones” and “headphone zones” to help visitors as they explore the Zoo grounds. In addition, the Zoo’s Education department made adjustments to classes and summer camps to make them more sensory friendly.

Blank Park Zoo staff members received training to increase understanding of SPDs giving them the ability to better serve the community through simple strategies each employee can implement. “Our work with KultureCity is a ‘game changer’ for many families in our community,” said Shimerdla. “The wonderful thing about this entire process is that we discovered that the changes brought about by the Sensory Friendly Zoo Initiative not only improve access for visitors with Sensory Processing Disorders, but also improve the quality of service for all of our guests.”

Prior to attending the Zoo, families can review the Zoo’s Accessibility page and download the free KultureCity App. Both of these resources provide information about the available sensory features and where they can accessed. A “Social Narrative” which will provide a preview of what to expect while enjoying their visit at Blank Park Zoo can also be found on the Zoo’s website and the KultureCity App.

“To see families attend the Zoo, with their loved ones who have a sensory challenge and who were not able to previously attend, is truly a heartwarming moment. Our communities are what shapes our lives and to know that Blank Park Zoo is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, is included in their community is amazing.” Dr. Julian Maha, Co-Founder, KultureCity.

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About KultureCity
KultureCity is a nonprofit recognized nationwide for revolutionizing and effecting change in the community for those with sensory needs, not just autism. Since its inception, KultureCity has created over 200 sensory-inclusive venues in three countries and at special events such as the NFL's Pro Bowl and Super Bowl, and MLB's All-Star weekend. KultureCity was awarded the NASCAR Foundation's Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award in 2017, and its Cleveland Cavaliers' Quiet Space Sensory Room at Quicken Loans Arena earned the 2018 Clio Sports Silver for social good and was a finalist for the 2018 Stadium Business Award. Recently, KultureCity was named one of the World's Most Innovative Companies for 2019 by FastCompany.

About Blank Park Zoo

The mission of Blank Park Zoo is to inspire and appreciation of the natural world through conservation, education, research and recreation. Blank Park Zoo is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., daily. Admission rates are $14 for adults, $8 for children under 12, and $11 for seniors and active military. Children two years and under and Blank Park Zoo members are free. The Zoo is located at 7401 SW 9th St., Des Moines, IA 50315. Visit the Zoo online at The Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) The AZA is America’s leading accrediting organization that sets rigorous, professional standards for zoos and aquariums. The AZA is building North America's largest wildlife conservation movement by engaging and inspiring the 143 million annual visitors to its member institutions and their communities to care about and take action to help protect wildlife.


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