Belfast Zoo to hold first sensory day
BELFAST Zoo is to hold its first ever 'sensory day' allowing visitors on the autism spectrum or those with other sensory requirements to enjoy visiting the attraction in a stress-free environment.
The zoo is set to open an hour earlier at 9am on Saturday June 30 to allow visitors to explore in a calm and relaxed atmosphere, without the typical noise and crowds that usually peak at lunchtime. There will also be a fast track queuing system in place throughout the day for those with sensory requirements.
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Visitors will be able to see their favourite animals at feeding time, learn about species biology at touch tables and find out more about the work the zoo does at keeper talks. There will also be a selection of puppets, props and scenery with Mr Hullabaloo’s interactive children’s theatre, suitable for children with sensory requirements. The team from Mini Explorers will be performing interactive, animal-themed sensory play. For visitors requiring ‘quiet time’ there will be a calm dark den with sensory lighting and also quiet zones found throughout the zoo.
Manager Alyn Cairns said: “We are committed to providing a family-focused experience that is supportive and enjoyable for visitors with sensory needs. The zoo is not only a vital educational resource for children but it is also a fantastic day out and a great opportunity to create memories as a family. We want to play an active role in making inclusivity the norm in Northern Ireland and to making the zoo a welcoming day out for everyone.”
The sensory day follows other initiatives to help those living with autism, including supermarket chain Lidl which holds 'Autism Aware Quiet Evenings'.
Belfast Zoo recently announced it is to provide free shuttle buses from the city centre over the next two weekends to mark the launch of a new film based on the story of animal lover Denise Weston Austin who took a baby African elephant, Sheila, from the zoo during the Belfast Blitz.