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Accessibility and Sensory Information

We're working hard to keep visitors safe! We've modified some of our Accessibility options at the Zoo to reflect social distancing best-practices. If you require any assistance, please call the Guest Services Office at 202-633-4180

The Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is committed to providing inclusive experiences for all audiences. If you need any assistance, please ask at any Information Station or parking booth.

Service Animals

Service animals are welcome at the Zoo. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. Pets are not permitted.

Getting To and Around the Zoo

All Zoo exhibits are wheelchair accessible. However, please be aware that the Zoo is located on hilly terrain in Rock Creek Park. In the Visitor Center lobby, a lift gives wheelchair users access to restrooms and water fountains. Benches are located throughout the Zoo.

Parking and Entrances

Designated accessible parking spaces are located in Parking Lots A, B and D on a first-come, first-served basis with your paid parking pass.

Please check the Zoo Map to see updated information regarding Zoo entrances, pedestrian pathways and building closures.

Wheelchair and Electronic Vehicle Rental

Wheelchairs and electronic vehicles are available to rent on a first-come, first-served basis from the retail kiosks located outside the Visitor Center and at the Lion/Tiger Information Booth. 

Manual Wheelchair: Free

Electronic Convenience Vehicle: $25 for members, $30 for non-members 

Please note: A state-issued driver's license or photo I.D. is required to rent and operate an electronic convenience vehicle. Guests must be at least 16 years old to operate an electronic vehicle and those under 18 years old must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Guest Shuttle Service

Guest shuttles are not operating at this time.

Restrooms

Restrooms are located at the Visitor Center, Panda Plaza, Elephant Outpost and Conservation Pavilion. All restrooms throughout the Zoo are accessible. The Visitor Center's restrooms and water fountains are accessible via a wheelchair lift.

Family restrooms are located in the Visitor Center, Elephant Outpost and Conservation Pavilion. All restrooms at the Zoo have automatic flushing mechanisms.

Currently, every other stall and sink are available in each restroom to facilitate social distancing.

Programs and Services

Public Programs

Public programming and theater programming are temporarily suspended.

Access Services

Access services, including sign language interpretation, CART and audio description, are available upon request. Please call 202-633-4180 two weeks in advance to request these services.

Aira

The Zoo is a location for the Aira Access mobile information and verbal description service. Visitors can download the free Aira app on a smartphone and use the app to speak to an Aira agent using minutes provided courtesy of the Zoo. For 30-minute intervals, an agent can assist with wayfinding to the nearest dining area, shop or restroom, describing the exhibits with details about size, number of animals, signage and more. To continue beyond the allotted time, visitors can call for a new agent. Visit Aira Access for more information.

Morning at the Museum

Morning at the Museum is a free, sensory friendly program for families with children with disabilities. The program is managed by the Access Smithsonian office. On select dates, registered families are invited to visit a Smithsonian museum or part of the Zoo before it opens to the public. Each program has thematic activities that relate to the museum or Zoo's exhibit content, as well as a take-a-break sensory space. Families are also welcome to explore the museum or Zoo exhibit at their own pace.

Programs at the Zoo are currently suspended. To learn more, please contact Ashley Grady at access@si.edu.

Sensory Friendly Tools and Information

Social Narratives

Social narratives are resource guides for individuals with cognitive disabilities and are useful as pre-visit guides to animal areas within the park. The social narratives highlight what visitors may encounter while touring the Zoo. In addition to showcasing animals in the collection, these guides also provide information on quiet areas, educational demonstrations, hands-on activities and artistic works. View and download the Zoo's social narratives

Please note that the social narratives do not reflect which exhibit buildings and areas of the Zoo are currently closed to the public. Please refer to the "Visiting During COVID-19 Social Narrative" for updated safety measures.

Sensory Friendly Kits

Sensory friendly kits are not available at this time.

Tactile Elements

Tactile elements are provided for all visitors throughout the Zoo, however access to some elements may be restricted. The Zoo asks guests to follow safe hygiene guidelines when choosing to interact with tactile elements.  

Quieter Times to Visit the Zoo

Labor Day through Easter (excluding Thanksgiving through New Year’s) is typically a less busy, quieter time of the year to visit the Zoo. For additional information related to visiting during special events, please see the events page. Visitation varies depending on holidays, school vacations, weather and other factors. Light, noise and crowds vary widely between animal exhibits.

Website Accessibility

The Zoo is committed to making its information and communication technologies accessible to individuals with disabilities. To meet this commitment, web pages have been designed to meet or exceed the Section-508 standards and to conform to the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. 

If you have feedback or concerns related to the accessibility of any content on this website, or have ideas or comments that would help improve the accessibility and usability of this website, please contact the Office of Communications at 202-633-3055. If applicable, please include the web address or URL, and the specific problems you have encountered