Posted March 31, 2023 in News
At Colchester Zoo we applaud the BIAZA Autism Acceptance Campaign. Although we have not focused on a specific event, we have undertaken a targeted campaign to raise Autism Awareness amongst the entire Zoo Team to ensure not only acceptance, but also demonstrable examples of making our Zoo more inclusive for guests on the autistic spectrum and their families / personal assistants.
All senior colleagues in our Zoo have completed an Autism Friendly training programme to ensure they understand the barriers, challenges and obstacles guests and colleagues that are autistic are dealing with. More importantly to help them understand what actions and behaviours they, and colleagues in their departments, can change to remove or minimise those barriers to be as inclusive as possible.
Trained colleagues in all those departments wear ‘Autism Aware’ badges to ensure guests know who to engage if they need assistant or additional support.
All guests who book an Animal Experience and tell us they have specific needs are now contacted ahead of the experience to ensure they, and our Animal Care Team, are well prepared with full information and are able to modify the experience accordingly.
We have dedicated and trained colleagues to support guests who are autistic and maybe cannot wait in line or need more time and explanation to fully enjoy the event. All special events are Equality Impact assessed to ensure minimal impact on guests with specific needs including those who are autistic.
We have modified the Zoo entrance and exits to ensure guest who are autistic have alternative less busy / noisy environments to navigate with identified quiet space to withdraw to if necessary.
A full guide with sections dedicated to providing information and advice to autistic guests, their families and assistants can be found on our website here. This includes a dedicated contact email for those with specific enquiries relating to access and inclusion.
Accessibility Map, Visual Social Story and Sensory Trails
Our Accessibility Map shows quiet spaces located throughout the Zoo. Our Visual Social Story resource uses images and consider text to explain what to expect during a visit to Colchester Zoo. Both long and short Sensory Trails are also available to download here to help guests explore our entire Zoo.
We offer a series of SEND school sessions particularly appropriate for guest who are autistic, these include:
- Exploring artifacts for SEND
- Animal Enrichment for SEND
- Animal Careers for SEND
Customer Engagement Manager
Our Customer Engagement Manager ensures that learning from customer comments and experience is used to inform improvements as a Learning Organisation.
We continue to make our Zoo more accessible and inclusive to all members of the community and have projects underway to enable this. We will continue to empower our colleagues with information and training to facilitate their understanding and change behaviours. We will continue to engage experts by experience to inform and challenge our developments going forward – to provide a unique connection to nature to everyone, however they may experience it.