Creating inclusion at the Australian Reptile Park…everyone can smile at a crocodile!

Earlier this year I received an invite to visit the Australian Reptile Park at Somersby, NSW to discuss making their visitor experience even more accessible and inclusive for people with disability. 
25-Sep-2020
ARP koala

Earlier this year I received an invite to visit the Australian Reptile Park at Somersby, NSW to discuss making their visitor experience even more accessible and inclusive for people with disability. 

Prior to my visit, project officers from the Better Access Map (BAM) team had been there to create an accessibility profile of the Australian Reptile Park, so that you can plan your day trip and know before you arrive the accessibility features available. This profile sparked their enthusiasm to provide an even greater inclusive experience for all visitors and they wanted to learn more.

When I arrived at the Australian Reptile Park I met up with their Marketing Assistant, Caitlin Vine, and I was impressed that making an accessible and inclusive business was a priority for them. Catlin explained that they had created a plan for accessibility and inclusion as a business model and that:

"At the Australian Reptile Park, we’ve been working hard to assess our accessibility offering and how we can improve visitor experience for all guests… We believe that everyone should be able to experience the wonders of wildlife, no matter what their ability."

Walking around the Park with Catlin, we discovered what was working well in each section and talked about potential improvements. We discussed some options for rest stops with benches along the pathways and improving their signage so visitors can easily find accessible viewing platforms and be informed about experiences before entering an enclosure or room.

Catlin had some interesting stories to share and recalled a time they had adapted an activity to be inclusive:

"Earlier this year, we had a family with a child who used a wheelchair, who booked a Behind the Scenes Tour, which normally takes visitors into restricted areas of the Park. As some of these areas are not wheelchair accessible, we organised for the experience to take place in an alternative behind the scenes area, offering access through staff entry points with level access. We are always happy to modify visitor experiences where possible to ensure that everyone can enjoy what we have to offer."

Throughout the Australian Reptile Park, there is wheelchair access and ramps to all visitor areas, accessible parking and toilets available, viewing windows in exhibits, benches for rest stops and recently upgraded areas of pathway on the nature walks with more being considered. Service dogs are permitted within certain areas of the Park (excluding the free-range kangaroo area) and free wheelchair hire is available.

Caitlin added that they "also offer free entry for carers when accompanying a person with a disability when they present their NSW Companion Card. The person with a disability can enter at our discounted Concession rate when a valid concession card is presented"

And they are still looking at ways to be even more inclusive:

"We are currently working on plans for inclusive experiences for children and are excited to launch this soon… Thanks to further support from Vinnies, we will soon be launching a campaign around our new Sensory Oasis tents and accessibility kits to make a visit to the Australian Reptile Park more accessible for children and/or adults with sensory barriers."

Planning a day out where all the family can have a great experience, then visit the Australian Reptile Park.

Before you go, check out their accessibility profile on the Better Access Map by downloading the app from Google Play or the Apple store, or contact the friendly Park team on (02) 4340 1022.

 

Cassie Fenech
Community Project Officer
Access and Inclusion
Vinnies NSW