Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rising to the Challenge

Many of us have challenges in life; some, luckily, are momentary.  Other challenges can be permanent physical disabilities.  At the World Bird Sanctuary we have always strived to be as accessible and accommodating as possible to all of our visitors. 
Visitors' Center Touch Table (photo: Robin Kuehn)
One afternoon a gentleman who has sight impairment asked me what was available at WBS for him to experience.  I gave the man a tour of the center explaining each bird and I brought him to a touch table at the visitor center. The touch table has feathers, bones and fur for everyone to touch since we do not allow anyone to touch the birds.  I realized after his visit that we could do so much more. 

We have student interns throughout the year that are asked to complete an intern project during their time with the Sanctuary.  I assigned one of them the challenge of making the Sanctuary more inviting to visitors who might have sight impairments.  She invited local blind advocacy organizations to tour our grounds to give us recommendations on what we might do to improve the safety and enjoyment of sight impaired visitors. 
Many of our signs now have braille added to them (photo: Robin Kuehn)
As a result of this intern’s project we added braille to many of the signs at the Sanctuary. We changed chain entrances to solid gates. We painted yellow safety stripes throughout the center and we created a sensory tote bag for sight-impaired visitors to use during their visits. 
We have sensory tote bags for visually impaired guests (photo: Robin Kuehn)
The sensory tote bag contains a brail map and descriptions and information about the birds along with touch items such as feathers, skulls and bones.  The bag is available to the public by request at our visitor center near the entrance to the Sanctuary. 

Our grounds are now paved for easier navigation (photo: Gay Schroer)
We want every visitor’s time at the Sanctuary to be full of enjoyable moments.  We continued to better accommodate visitors when we paved the center.  We are very proud of our asphalt.  I never imagined how hard (expensive) it could be to pave the facility.  Thanks to the wonderful donors that helped make it happen.  The pavement makes it much easier for visitors to get around our property. 

Each building has a wheelchair which may be borrowed for guests with mobility issues (photo: Joe Hoffmann)
We also have wheelchairs available at every building on our grounds.  Just speak with one of our staff to find out where.

If you have any concerns or suggestions to make our center more accessible to visitors with challenges please contact me at 636 861-1392 and ask for Joe. 

Submitted by Joe Hoffmann, World Bird Sanctuary Rehabilitation Hospital Manager

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