Oregon Zoo launches new sensory-inclusive program


Partnership with nonprofit KultureCity aims to help guests with sensory needs

The Oregon Zoo has partnered with KultureCity to make its grounds and all of its programs and events sensory-inclusive. The new initiative aims to promote an accommodating and positive experience for all guests with sensory issues.

As part of KultureCity's certification process, zoo staff received training on how to recognize guests with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory-overload situation. Bags equipped with noise canceling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards and weighted lap pads will be available to guests.

Sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by people with autism, dementia, PTSD and other similar conditions. One of the major barriers for these individuals is sensitivity to overstimulation and noise. With its new certification, the zoo is now better prepared to help guests with sensory sensitivities have the most comfortable and accommodating experience possible.

Prior to attending, visitors can download the free KultureCity app to learn what sensory resources are available and how to access them. The app also includes a feature called the Social Story, which provides a preview of what to expect at the zoo.

"Our communities are what shape our lives," said Kelly AuCoin, KultureCity board member. "And to know that the Oregon Zoo is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, is included in their community is amazing."

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.

The Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, Western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs. The zoo is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26 at exit 72. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Find fare and route information online or by calling TriMet Customer Service at 503-238-RIDE (7433).
General zoo admission is $10.50 (ages 12-64), $9 for seniors (65 and up), $7.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $4 per car is also required. Additional information is available by calling 503-226-1561.

Media contact: 

Hova Najarian | 503-220-5714 | hova.najarian@oregonzoo.org