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Promoting Social Enrichment

Small Details Help Create Big Opportunities

With bold steps and a strong commitment, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has embraced the challenge of becoming ambassadors for diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion. It’s a daring new perspective — with the power to impact our community and beyond.

Thanks to a grant from AWS Foundation, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s initiative to create a “zoo for all” has expanded its potential. Under the leadership of Executive Director Rick Schuiteman, the Zoo sought input from numerous area organizations on ways it could be more intentional in welcoming both visitors and employees with disabilities.

Although the Zoo has long exceeded ADA requirements, additional physical and operational modifications are currently underway to enhance accessibility in the entry areas and throughout the zoo. A grant from AWS Foundation was used to equip the Wild Things gift shop and employee restrooms and break areas with automated door openers that are reachable for those in wheelchairs. While this may seem like a simple step, it truly opened doors for a more diverse workforce to feel they belong at the zoo.

Indeed, the Zoo has taken a close look at the ways it needed to evolve to become a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Through active partnerships with Easterseals ARC of Northeast Indiana and other organizations, the Zoo is making big strides in both recruiting employees with disabilities and developing tailored training programs designed to support their success.

“We know we’re a leader in the community, so we said we need to set an example and make some changes. It became a priority to learn how we could be more welcoming to guests and employees with disabilities—and then shift our culture a little bit to make it happen.”

—Rick Schuiteman, Executive Director