Simplified: The Great Plains Zoo has a new program to better accommodate sensory needs. And by next year the goal is to have an easier way for low-income families to have zoo access, according to zoo Director Becky Dewitz.

Why it matters

  • The zoo recently became certified with KultureCity, a national organization focused on sensory accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities.
  • Dewitz also told City Council Tuesday afternoon about plans to bring the zoo on board with another national organization, Museums4All, through a "Zoo4All" effort. That'd mean people would be able to present their EBT cards for discounted admission rates.
  • Both of these efforts are part of a broader goal to create greater accessibility.
"We're really trying to become the zoo for all people," Dewitz said.

Tell me more about sensory accessibility

More than half of the zoo's employees have undergone training through KultureCity, Dewitz said.

Kits are available now for zoo visitors with sensory needs, which include things like headphones and fidget spinners.

  • For example, if an area of the zoo gets too loud, a child with a kit would have the option to put on the headphones to quiet out excess noise.

Tell me more about financial accessibility

The program is still in the very early stages, Dewitz said, and more will be known next month.

It'll be in partnership with SSA Group, the company that oversees the zoo's concessions, admissions and gift shop.

Right now, the zoo has an option available for people who cannot afford the regular admission, but it requires an application process.

  • The goal with a "Zoo4All" program would be to make it easier.
"It needs to be very turnkey," Dewitz said.

Councilor Pat Starr said he'd also like to see some way to have free admission to the zoo on certain days, as well.

"How do we open it up to the community and give access to those that want it?" Starr said.

What happens next?

Dewitz said the next step will be meeting with SSA Group in December to work more on the affordability program with the goal of launching in January.