By Ellie Nan Storck
October 28, 2015
Courtesy of Birmingham Zoo

In an effort to raise awareness for Sensory Processing Disorders (SPDs), the Birmingham Zoo has partnered with KultureCity—an organization serving those with autism—to create a Sensory Friendly Initiative. This program aims to make the zoo's grounds more accessible to all visitors while promoting inclusive experiences for visitors with SPDs.

Courtesy of Birmingham Zoo

After the “Special Needs Spooktacular” event that took place last October, over 300 families with children who have special needs were able to enjoy the zoo—many for the first time, ever. Now, children with SPDs have access to resources such as noise-canceling headphones, fidget toys, and weighted lap pads. Signs within the Zoo specify quiet zones and headphone zones throughout the exhibits, and the Zoo’s Education Department has altered camps and programs to make them sensory-friendly.

Throughout the development of this initiative, staff members underwent special training to further their understanding of SPDs and to learn about how they can provide the SPD community with the best experience. If you would like to visit the 950 animals at the Birmingham Zoo, it's open daily from 9am until 5pm. Regular admission is $15 for adults and $10 for senior citizens and children ages 2-12.

Ellie Storck is the Digital Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Instagram at @ellienan.