By Luke Ranker, July 22, 2016
The Topeka Zoo received it’s first American’s with Disabilities Act audit in more than five years, but this inspection was different.
Students, ages 14 to 18, from the Topeka Independent Living’s George Wolf Youth Interns visited the zoo during their six week summer program. Friday they presented their findings about how the zoo could be more welcoming to those with disabilities.
The program is designed to teach youth about ADA requirements and the Topeka Independent Living Center, Carol Doss said. Most students were from Topeka, but the program drew interns from Silver Lake, and Harveyville. All high school-aged students are able to apply and participate in the program. Because the program is geared toward providing real-world experience, many interns have disabilities themselves, Doss said.
“I’ve learned how to advocate for others and myself,” said 14-year-old Topekan Sean Tyree. It has been at least seven or eight years since the zoo had an ADA audit, zoo director Brandan [sic] Wiley said. “This was really an opportunity to get a different perspective,” Brendan Wiley, zoo director said.
The audit found many positivists [sic], like accessible ticket booths, but some thing that needed to be changed.
“If something happened with one of the animals, boom, it’d get addressed, but at the same time there’s no automatic door to visit the orangutans,” he said.
Some of the features the students found that needed updating included wider and lower sidewalk wheelchair ramps, larger print on displays, accessible picnic benches, exhibits with visibility to those in wheel chairs and entrances that aren’t accessible to wheel chairs. The students also found areas in the parking lot and restroom’s where accessibility wasn’t clear.
Most of the problem areas can be changed easily with relatively no coast [sic], Wiley said.