When you have a child with a disability, there’s quite a bit of extra planning involved when seeking out kid-friendly excursions. With that in mind, I’ve highlighted two local attractions dedicated to disability accommodation and provided links to accessibility resources from some other favorite spots.
The pathways at the Nashville Zoo are nice and wide and nearly all of the attractions feature vantage points that allow those using wheelchairs the ability to see all there is to see. There are a couple of areas that ask you to park your stroller before entering. Wheelchairs and strollers being used as wheelchairs are welcome in these areas—simply let the staff know and/or ask for assistance. Wheelchairs and electric scooters are available for rent at the front gate on a first-come, first-serve basis.
There are two family restrooms in the park. I personally know that the one near the playground (which features an awesome handicapped swing!) has an extra long counter that is perfect for changing a larger child. If you are in need of an area to change a child (or an adult who cannot be lifted onto a counter), see a staff member, and they will happily accommodate you. In addition, if you need to dispose of medical waste, have questions about food allergies and menu items, need to get a heat-sensitive child to a cool area, or need access to a microwave or electrical outlet, simply ask a staff member. Be on the lookout for the new Entry Village which is on track to open by the end of the year. It will feature even more amenities (including a nursing station and family room!) that are sure to be appreciated by both special needs and typical families alike.
Autism and Other Disabilities
The zoo provides some excellent materials to make your visit with your child with autism (or similar special needs) as fun and stress-free as possible. Here you will find social stories, visual schedules, and maps to quiet areas (I’m told the Historic Grassmere Home and Farm features great quiet spots). The zoo also has an Autism Awareness Day in April of each year. At the elephant and giraffe exhibit, you will find braille and touch-based interpretive panels. There are also several exhibits, programs, and shows which cater to the sense of touch. Check out Lorikeet Landing, Kangaroo Kickabout, Critter Encounters, Animal Encounter programs, Keeper Talks, and the Biofact Kiosks.
If you are using a wheelchair or stroller, barrier-free access is available from the Turner Courtyard on the Southeast side of the building nearest the Federal Courthouse. The Frist Center’s exhibitions change with frequency, and with each exhibition, the staff works closely with exhibition designers to ensure that works in each exhibition are accessible from wheelchairs. Wheelchairs are available for use free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit the member desk or visitor services to borrow one.
There are two large family rooms adjacent to the auditorium. Each of these have large chairs on which an adult or larger child’s changing needs can be met. Electrical outlets are located in the Grand Lobby and in the area just inside the accessible entry at 9th Avenue. If you have a child experiencing sensory overwhelm, see a security guard or staff member to be escorted to a quiet space. One particularly noteworthy accommodation is the fact that a “caregiver” pass is included in the family membership. For us, this means we don’t have to pay a separate admission for my daughter’s home care nurses who accompany us on most of our outings. For any other specific needs or requests, see the member desk or visitor services.
The Frist Center offers audio guides, large print gallery guides (with thanks to the Nashville Public Library), and upon request (with notice), Braille materials. The first Saturday of each month, the Frist Center offers ASL interpretation of the 1:30 p.m. walk-up tour of an exhibition as well as ASL interpretation of the 4:30 p.m. architecture tour of their historic building. All Frist Center specially requested guided tours—including visual description tours—can be requested three weeks in advance of the date of the visit by contacting Emily Jenkins at 615.744.3247 or email.
Accessibility at Other Local Attractions
(If the site did not have a specific accessibility page online, I linked to FAQ’s and/or contact info. I’ve found that most places are happy to provide information and assist you to the best of their ability!)