Arizona Science Center helps visitors with developmental disabilities

Published in AZ Big Media on June 9, 2018

Arizona Science Center has partnered with Phoenix-based startup Pal to become more inclusive for visitors with developmental disabilities. Together, they’ve created a video social story showing what to expect and an interactive digital guide to assist with communication and navigation. Designed to support the 1 in 6 children in the US with developmental disabilities, including autism, the new resources are available free at PalExperiences.org.

“Our partnership with Pal is a vital step in making Arizona Science Center’s exhibits, programs and services inclusive and accessible to everyone,” said Chevy Humphrey, The Hazel A. Hare President and CEO of Arizona Science Center. “Pal’s knowledge and expertise help to prepare guests with developmental disabilities to visit the Center in a way that is comfortable. This video serves as a guide that greatly improves the experience, allowing our guests to engage in science learning and discovery.”

Melanie Isaacs founded Pal after meeting a family who said they couldn’t take their son to an aquarium, where she was working at the time because his autism spectrum disorder and sensory sensitivities made the experience too overwhelming. Having two uncles in wheelchairs with Muscular Dystrophy, Isaacs understood the need for places to be accessible to people with physical disabilities, but meeting this family helped broaden her perspective. 

“The boy didn’t need a wheelchair ramp. He needed something else,” said Isaacs. “Our tools are all about helping families be prepared. Uncertainty breeds anxiety, so if we can show what it’s like to visit an incredible place like Arizona Science Center, families can plan ahead, determine what’s best for them, and be more likely to have a positive experience.”

To celebrate the partnership and welcome the Pal community to Arizona Science Center, they will be hosting a special family night for Pal families. The superhero-themed evening will be filled with super-powered science demos and comic-inspired fun. Guests are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite superhero or supervillain. The Pal Family Event is June 16 from 6-9 p.m. Admission is $12 for non-members and $10 for members. Purchase tickets here.

Pal uses video modeling, an evidence-based best practice in reducing anxiety over new experiences. Each video stars a family impacted by developmental disabilities as they enjoy an experience at the Pal Place. Families at home can watch the video, and they say it gives them confidence that they too can have a similar experience.

Pal’s tools are reviewed and approved by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Other Pal Places include the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Phoenix Suns, the Phoenix Mercury and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, with more on the way.

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