Tips for a Sensory-Friendly Aquarium

An aquarium is a fun and to visit for people of all ages. Did you know that it is important to be sensory-friendly for your visitors? Creating a sensory-friendly aquarium experience makes your aquarium accessible and inclusive to more people. Furthermore, making aquarium visitors more comfortable encourages loyalty and positive reviews, too!

Many people, of all ages, experience sensory sensitivity or sensory overload. Adding sensory-friendly features helps your visitors. An aquarium visit is sensory-rich. There are often both very dark and very bright spaces in contrast. Aquariums may be noisy with many visitors. Moreover, there is often a strong smell of salt water. Help visitors feel comfortable managing their senses!

Next, read on to discover strategies that make the aquarium experience sensory-friendly for everyone. Implement the strategies and you will attract and retain more visitors.

Infographic highlighting 6 ways to make an aquarium sensory-friendly.

Have accessible toilets

Sensory-friendly recommendations from Sensory Friendly Solutions for public spaces regularly includes mention of access to toilets.  This study, “Having a Toilet Is Not Enough: The Limitations in Fulfilling the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation in a Municipal School in Bahia, Brazil” by Coswosk et al., in 2019, shares research that supports why toilets should always be cleaned and sanitized. Furthermore, it identifies the importance of privacy and dignity, for example, allowing for menstrual hygiene management. (Coswok et al., 2019) 1.

Importantly, making people comfortable in public buildings means having access to toilets.  That means toilets are easy to find. So, add clear signs and directions throughout your aquarium. In addition, include family-friendly toilets and gender-neutral toilets, as well as accessible toilets.

Provide a sensory-friendly map

A sensory-friendly map provides visitors with information about the sensory experience at your aquarium. For instance, show visitors on the map where areas are that are sensory-rich, or busy, noisy and bright. Moreover, be sure to information about where to find low-sensory or quiet zones, too. Finally, make the map available online in digital format, on signs throughout the aquarium, and on-site in print to give out.

Train sensory-friendly aquarium staff

You have likely felt more at ease at an unfamiliar location when trained staff were available. Therefore, do the same for your aquarium visitors. For instance, train staff to help people with disabilities. You can also teach your staff to learn more about becoming sensory-friendly, accessible and inclusive.

Designate a sensory-relaxed room

Balance the sensory-rich experience of the aquarium. A sensory-relaxed room or space gives people a break. It helps them feel calm again. So, design your room to reduce stress. Consider adding comfortable seating, for example. In addition, make it a quiet zone with no background music or noise. Ensure there are no bright lights. Finally, add in sensory-friendly tools, like those described in the next tip: backpacks.

Offer sensory-friendly backpacks

Sensory-friendly backpacks can be available for loan, rent or purchase onsite. Fill them with sensory tools that help visitors regulate their senses in a sensory-rich environment like the aquarium.

For example, your sensory-friendly backpack might include a:

Give out sensory-friendly lanyards

Create sensory-friendly lanyards for visitors to wear. Lanyards allow visitors to unobtrusively identify their need for a sensory-friendly experience. Moreover, trained staff will easily be able to identify visitors who need extra help or an adjusted experience.

Use these suggestions to create a sensory-friendly, accessible, and inclusive aquarium experience for your visitors. Here is a great example of a sensory-friendly aquarium: the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

In conclusion are you ready to be inspired by other sensory-friendly tourist attractions? Then, check out:

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  1. Coswosk, D. D., Neves-Silva, P., Modena, C. M., & Heller, L. (2019). “Having a Toilet Is Not Enough: The Limitations in Fulfilling the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation in a Municipal School in Bahia, Brazil.” BMC Public Health, 19(1).
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