June 8, 2023, Billings Gazette: ZooMontana installs autism sensory guides https://billingsgazette.com/news/local/zoomontana-installs-autism-sensory-guides/article_328e5fc0-061a-11ee-b5a2-076b94f6038c.html
In an effort to bolster a commitment to autism accessibility, ZooMontana has installed new sensory guides throughout the park. The guides were created in conjunction with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards.
The Zoo selected areas both indoors and outdoors to install the guides. Each guide sign highlights a rating system that alerts guests as to what to expect in terms of the five senses; sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.
The 1-5 rating system will help parents/caregivers plan which areas of the zoo to avoid if a certain sense is heightened during their visit. In addition, the zoo has created a quiet zone; an area of the zoo that gets little traffic. The area is designed to be a refuge for those that need a break.
"We want to be sure every guest that visits ZooMontana is comfortable, ensuring all guests that visit have a safe and enjoyable time, no matter their background", shared Jeff Ewelt, Executive Director of ZooMontana. “We are dedicated to creating a space all will remember, learn and enjoy their family time.”
The Zoo has also launched new sensory bags for check out. The bags contain fidgets, ear protection and sunglasses to help guests deal with sensory issues should they need it. The bags, sponsored by the Boothill Inn & Suites, are free for use during a guest's visit, but must be returned. These efforts are all in conjunction with ZooMontana becoming a Certified Autism Center, a designation awarded by IBCCES….
ZooMontana takes a step forward to be part of a larger Billings initiative to achieve the Certified Autism Destination designation.