DUDLEY Zoo and Castle has been officially accredited for its work in making its 40-acre site more inclusive for people with sensory needs.

The Castle Hill attraction is the first zoo to receive an autism friendly certification from Dimensions, one of the country’s largest not-for-profit organisations supporting people with learning disabilities and autism, which also provided free training for zoo staff.

Zoo manager, Matt Lewis, said: “We’re committed to being as accessible as possible and we’ve been working hard for this to happen.

“We’re incredibly proud to be the first zoo certified as autism friendly by Dimensions and we thank them for their continued support and advice.”

As part of its ongoing DEAI (Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, Inclusion) work, the zoo will be holding its first pre-book only autism-friendly quiet morning on Sunday May 19, for guests who would prefer a calmer environment.

The zoo will open at 9am and all music and background sounds in indoor areas will be turned off for two hours. The site’s land train will also begin running later in the day and a quiet room will be available.

Additional signage and information boards, designed to help visitors identify various sensory environments, have already been installed across the site and the zoo has also taken delivery of several sensory bags, which include headphones and sensory fidget toys. A new simple illustrated social story has also been uploaded to the zoo’s website, allowing visitors to prepare for a visit.

Matt added: “We understand a visit to the zoo can be daunting for those who may struggle with crowds and the different noises and smells associated with a zoo environment. We hope these new initiatives we’re putting in place will allow more people to be able to enjoy a day out at DZC discovering about the natural world around us.”