Accessibility Features at the JMZ

February 7, 2023

Hello Friends,

On Valentine’s Day, next Tuesday, February 14, the Friends will host the first in a series of community events for JMZ visitors. Join us in Classroom 2 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. or 3 to 4 p.m. for hot chocolate and Valentine-making. JMZ staff will also provide Valentine treats and enrichment activities for the zoo animals to enjoy. The event is free with admission; tickets to the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo must be purchased in advance.

A top priority at the Friends is to ensure that the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo remains accessible to everyone, regardless of physical or cognitive abilities or their ability to pay admission. This month, we highlight accessibility features at the JMZ, which was designed to be engaging and fun for people of all ages and abilities.

I look forward to seeing you at the JMZ soon! 

Lauren Angelo

President, Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo

Accessibility Features at the JMZ

The Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo is committed to giving children, families, and caregivers the opportunity to explore their curiosity in a space that is designed for people of all abilities. All exhibits and habitats throughout the JMZ were designed according to the Smithsonian Guidelines for Accessible Exhibition Design. Thanks to a federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the JMZ could fund the Access from the Ground Up project which included staff training, an advisory committee, and new exhibits. 

When reimagining and designing the new museum and zoo, the JMZ partnered with Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Magical Bridge Foundation, Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Inclusion Collaborative, AbilityPath, California School for the Deaf, and advisors and parents in order to create an accessible and positive experience for all visitors. Members of the JMZ’s Accessibility Advisory Team contributed valuable feedback on new exhibits, ensuring that all features would be inclusive. This work is ongoing and advisors continue to provide feedback on future exhibits.

For Visitors with Limited Mobility

  • Accessible Restrooms: Adult-sized and infant changing tables are available in the women’s and men’s restrooms. For visitors with disabilities, a family restroom is available.

  • The Treehouse: Located in the zoo, the treehouse is completely wheelchair accessible with an elevator and accessible pathways to climbing areas. Wheelchair transfer stations are not only in the treehouse, but also in the Dawn Redwood Courtyard and underwater tunnel in the zoo.

A young visitor explores the wheelchair accessible pathways in the treehouse. Photo courtesy of Artem Nazarov.

For Visitors Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision

  • Tactile Maps: These 3D printed maps include large print, braille, and colorful tactile diagrams. Maps are located in the museum lobby and zoo entrance.

  • Animal Sculptures: Located throughout the zoo, these bronze sculptures allow visitors to touch and feel the shape, size, and unique characteristics of the different animals who call the JMZ home.

  • Braille and Large Print Guide: The guide, available for checkout at the front desk, includes exhibit and animal labels in braille and large print, images of animals, and QR codes to audio recordings.

  • Audio Recordings: Available in both English and Spanish, audio recordings can be accessed for museum labels by scanning the QR codes located on all signs.

For Visitors with Deafness or Hearing Loss

  • American Sign Language Interpretation: ASL interpreters can be arranged for visitors free of charge by contacting [email protected] or (650)329-2111 at least two weeks in advance.

  • California Dinosaur Garden ASL Interpretation: ASL interpretation for animation videos are planned for the California Dinosaur Garden, scheduled to open later this year. Members of the deaf or hearing loss community that are interested in being engaged with making the JMZ more accessible can contact JMZ Exhibits Director Tina Keegan at [email protected].

A young visitor with low vision feels a bronze bee nest sculpture in the zoo. Photo courtesy of Artem Nazarov.

For Visitors with Autism or Sensory Sensitivities

  • Calming Nooks: These quiet spaces provide a place for visitors to take a break from the noises and activity at the JMZ. One is located in the museum and features a calming blue bubble wall. The other is located in the zoo and has relaxing rocking chairs available for visitors.

  • 'My Trip to the Junior Museum & Zoo' Storybook: Available in both English and Spanish, the storybook helps caretakers and children prepare for their visit. A printed version of this storybook is also available for checkout at the front desk.

  • Sensory Backpacks: Available to check out at the front desk for no additional cost, these resources include fidget toys, sensory soothing tools, like headphones and quiet toys, and a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).

Accessibility Initiatives 

  • Reduced Admission: Visitors with disabilities and their immediate family and care providers qualify for reduced admission for $3 a ticket, and can apply online for the program. Proof of disability is not required.

  • Super Family Sunday: These free appreciation days for families with children with disabilities give exclusive access to the JMZ in a calm environment. Reservations are required. To join the Super Family Sunday mailing list, sign up on the JMZ’s Accessibility page, email [email protected], or call (650)329-2111.

  • Field Trips: For field trips for special education classrooms, the fee is $3 per student. Teachers, aides and chaperones for students are admitted free of charge. Advance reservations are required.

Visit the JMZ’s Accessibility page to learn more.

Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo

[email protected] | www.friendsjmz.org


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