How SeaQuest Accommodates Guests With Special Needs

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ADA Accessible Family at SeaQuest

At SeaQuest, inclusivity isn’t just a policy; it’s a commitment to all guests. Regardless of guests’ abilities, we want them to enjoy the marvels of our aquatic and terrestrial worlds. To achieve this goal, we provide a range of accommodations and services so that everyone can access the wonders of SeaQuest. From sensory-friendly hours that reduce overstimulation to wheelchair-friendly ramps, we’ve got you covered so you can focus less on the details of the facility and more on making memories.  

Planning Your SeaQuest Visit

At SeaQuest, the visitor experience begins long before you enter our doors. As such, we prioritize making every guest’s experience great — even when you’re still in the planning stages of visiting. In these early stages, you can easily access our website and online tools and plan your day ahead.

Website Accessibility Features

Here’s a look at some of the key features and resources that SeaQuest offers online to help guests plan their visit effectively: 

  • Location tracker: Our easy-to-use location tracker lets you find the closest Seaquest location, the animals we house, and contact information. You can also book your tickets in advance or contact staff members with any questions about your visit.  
  • Easy-read text: Our website has high-contrast and text size options for people with visual impairments. These tools allow users to read information about tickets, our animals, and the facility itself. 
  • Screen reader compatibility: We design every facet of our website to be compatible with screen readers so you can navigate the site easily.
  • Downloadable resources: We have accessibility guides, maps, and service guides that you can download before your visit to help you plan.

 

Although these features are standards in web accessibility, we believe they provide a proactive approach so you can plan a hassle-free visit.

Special Needs Accommodation Requests

If you have a specific accommodation request, such as needing a wheelchair for easy accessibility or a visual guide aide, you can contact our staff members beforehand. We will make the proper arrangements beforehand, so you don’t have to worry about missing out on your visit. 

Visitor Information and Guides

We provide thorough and ample information about our facilities and exhibits you can access before, during, and after your visit. Not only can they help plan your visit, but they can also help you retain the education we provide at SeaQuest. However, we know that not all formats are compatible with everyone, especially considering the needs of people with disabilities. Here’s an overview of the accessible formats available:

  • Large print materials: If you don’t download some of our resources beforehand, don’t worry! We provide the resources mentioned above in large print for people with visual impairments. Each document has a high-contrast, enlarged font for your pleasure. 
  • Braille text: Besides print materials, we offer braille versions of our resources for anyone with low vision. Braille is also on all our exhibit plaques, but you can specifically ask for braille guides at the front desk when you first visit.
  • Audio guides: We understand that everyone has different hearing capabilities, and some may need help cutting out distracting noise that impairs things like hearing aids. As such, we offer audio guides for people who may be hard of hearing. These guides provide all the education every guest receives — from staff speaking points to details about each exhibit. These guides can also be helpful to visually impaired visitors, allowing them to enjoy a self-guided tour at their own pace.

 

SeaQuest aims to empower all guests with the tools to fully engage with and enjoy their visit by offering these varied formats.

Wheelchair access at SeaQuest

Physical Accessibility At SeaQuest

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, all buildings, including zoos, aquariums, and petting zoos, must provide several provisions to accommodate people with disabilities — including wheelchair chair ramps, proper parking, and accommodations for service animals. At SeaQuest, we strive to meet these standards for all guests with physical disabilities.

Facility Layout and Mobility Access

We’ve designed the layout of SeaQuest’s facilities carefully to eliminate barriers so everyone can have a comfortable and enjoyable time. Here’s an overview of the mobility access features available:

  • Ramps: All of our facilities have ramps with a gentle slope to replace steps for all guests to move around without difficulty because of wheelchairs, strollers, or other mobility aids.
  • Elevators: Within the facility, there are elevators to access different building floors. These elevators are big enough to fit large groups of people and wheelchairs of any size. 
  • Wide pathways: All pathways in SeaQuest are wide enough and decluttered for several purposes: planning for emergency protocols, making room for peak hours with more visitors, and accommodating wheelchair users.
  • Accessible restrooms: Our restrooms include large stalls with wide doors, ample space for maneuvering, grab bars, accessible purse hooks, and lower sinks for ease of use by guests with mobility challenges.
  • Seating areas: The facility has strategically placed seating areas where guests can rest.
  • Parking: All of our parking lots have accessible spaces with ample space for wheelchair users to enter and exit their vehicles. 

 

These features are standard at all facilities, but some will have more accommodations than others. Contact your closest SeaQuest location today if you have questions about these additions. 

Service Animal Policies

All service animals, regardless of their type or role, are welcome and encouraged at SeaQuest. We provide outdoor areas for your service animal to relieve itself, and both you and your service animal are welcome to venture into most exhibits since we house a variety of sensitive species, a couple of exhibits may be restricted to your service pet to protect you, your service dog, and the exhibit’s inhabitants. 

Despite this policy, we train all our staff on service animal policies. They can help you navigate the facility and provide tours of non-restricted areas so you and your service can feel welcome. 

Quiet Hours at SeaQuest

Sensory-Friendly Initiatives at SeaQuest Facilities

We provide an experience that targets most senses — visual, auditory, touch, and smell. However, some families and guests may find the traditional experience too overwhelming and may want a sensory-friendly experience instead. Here are a couple of ways we can accommodate these needs.

Quiet Hours and Sensory Bags

To provide a more relaxed environment for neurodivergent guests who may experience sensory overload, SeaQuest designates special quiet hours. During these times, we reduce the ambient noise level that plays over speakers and dim the lights — all during times when crowd sizes are smaller. We can provide this experience during opening hours once or twice a week to provide as much calm space as possible.  

If you visit outside of quiet hours, you can access quiet areas throughout the facility. These areas allow guests to retreat if they need a break from overwhelming stimuli and provide a peaceful environment for anyone who needs it.

In addition, you can check out sensory bags at the customer service desk that include sensory toys and other tools. The contents of these bags help guests manage sensory input, fidget, and remain comfortable throughout their visit.

Visual Story Guides

SeaQuest provides visual story guides to assist guests and reduce their anxiety with unfamiliar experiences. These videos walk you through the entire experience at SeaQuest, including the facility, the different exhibits and animals, and other interactive elements involved. This includes touch pools, feeding stations, and other hands-on activities. With this information, guests can choose their most comfortable experiences.

Special Programs and Events at SeaQuest

SeaQuest offers a variety of educational events and programs specially designed for guests with special needs. Staff members who are knowledgeable about conservation issues and the educational needs of varied demographics will specifically design each program for the public’s benefit.

SeaQuest Rescue Animals in the Community - Backpack Drive

We also host community events with local organizations that benefit people with disabilities.  These sponsored events are open to the community and help connect many people; all proceeds benefit the community.  

Staff Training and Guest Assistance

Whether you are looking for accommodation or are interested in an upcoming event, we train all staff members to handle the needs of every guest — no matter their needs. We instruct employees on how to provide exceptional customer service. In these courses, employees learn about the psychological needs of guests, especially children, who may be unable to communicate their needs directly. They also know the role body language plays in the place of verbal communication for children and the neurodivergent community and how to listen and respond to these needs. 

Staff members also learn how to provide the best education for all guests and how to tailor each lesson for each guest based on their previous education, age, and capabilities. This education includes everything from the daily lives of our animals to the conservation initiatives pertinent to our animals. 

On-Site Assistance

If you require assistance, further accommodations, or resources, you can contact a SeaQuest employee at any point before and during your visit. You can call any location for requested accommodations beforehand, but we’re also happy to provide accommodations at the front desk if you plan a last-minute visit. We also welcome any questions you may have! We understand that there can be a lot of specifics involved in planning your visit, but we have all of our provisions in place so you can have a smooth, memorable time. 

Feedback and Continuous Improvement

Although we do our very best to provide accommodations and assistance for guests with special needs, we also know that we can always find ways to improve. Please let us know if you find areas where we can improve the guest experience, particularly regarding inclusivity. Here are a couple of ways we aim to improve the SeaQuest experience.

Guest Feedback Mechanism

At every location, you can find different guest feedback stations where you can submit a survey or other comments about your experience. We also evaluate all comments on social media and emails people may have about our special needs policies. From here, the leadership team will immediately implement the feedback, address staff members during bi-monthly meetings, or reach out to upper management for assistance.

Ongoing Accessibility Enhancements

Even without feedback, we still strive to find ways to improve our accessibility and inclusivity accommodations. As such, we conduct regular accessibility audits for each location. In these audits, an accessibility expert assesses any barriers that may stand in the way of guests enjoying all facets of their experience. This assessment will include upgrading facilities, enhancing wayfinding signage, and optimizing exhibit interactives for all users.

SeaQuest values all of its guests — no matter what accommodation they need. We provide everything from quiet hours for people with cognitive disabilities to easily accessible bathrooms for those with wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Again, if you find an area we can improve, reach out and submit feedback at any point. You may find that your next visit includes these changes, enhancing your visit and the experiences of others around you. We also welcome all questions related to your experience. No matter how specific it may be, we’ll do our best to answer it so you can visit stress-free. 

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