California Academy of Sciences: A Promising Practice in Planning for Visitors who are Neurodiverse

Date Updated

The California Academy of Sciences has an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum and is a powerful voice for biodiversity research and exploration, environmental education, and sustainability across the globe. One of their core values is a commitment to diversity and equity. Outlined on their website their commitment reads:

“Diverse communities are stronger and more resilient, both in nature and in human society. We are committed to cultivating a culturally inclusive and equitable environment in which diversity of thought and expression are valued, respected, and celebrated.”

Developing resources that expand accessibility for visitors who are neurodiverse is one way they have acted on this commitment. The accessibility practices they have created includes three key pieces.

  1. A sensory guide embedded in the online virtual map of the museum indicates areas of the museum that include stimulus (noise, visual, touch, and smell) at low, moderate, or high levels.
  2. A social story, designed for young visitors, illustrates the museum experience for those preparing to visit.
  3. Sensory kits, which include “adjustable earmuffs and fidget-friendly toys” are available for check out during museum visits.

These resources are listed on the museum’s accessibility webpage.

The California Academy of Sciences’ resources are a promising practice because they provide tools for planning and customizing a museum visit for visitors who are neurodiverse.

For more information on increasing the accessibility of informal STEM learning programs, visit the Access Informal STEM Learning (AccessISL) website.