This is something I’ve never even noticed; Tanganyika is incredibly handicap accessible. There isn’t one place here that you couldn’t get to via wheelchair, scooter, or walker. There’s a part of me that feels bad for not even taking the time to realize this. After all, I spent several months working in the Gift Shop renting out our electric scooters and wheelchairs to people who were simply unable to make it through Tanganyika without assistance. Yet all the while when I was renting these items out, I never had to warn a visitor about a place they couldn’t go or an experience they would have to skip due to their wheeled assistance.
I’ve been with Tanganyika for over a year now and this realization didn’t hit me until I received this message on our Tanganyika Park Fan Page on March 18th:
My family and I had a wonderful visit to your park yesterday. My son, William, has cerebral palsy and is a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair most of the time. I deeply appreciate how easy Tanganyika was to navigate. There were no special entrances, or ramps behind buildings, or endless wandering-around trying to look for where we could pull up his wheelchair. Everything was laid out equitably and beautifully. I cannot tell you how much this means to me! Our son is very intelligent, and only has a physical impairment, so he NOTICES when things are different. He was so happy yesterday to be able to interact with the animals just like the other kids were doing. We all enjoyed the experience immensely.
While at Lemur Island, the keeper snapped a picture of William and the lemurs clustering around/hanging onto his wheelchair. Is there a way we can get a copy of that? He has been telling everyone the lemurs accepted him as one of their own! Thanks again for the fabulous experience. We are already recommending it to all our friends and planning our next visit this summer!
Ana Santiago Baker
After reading that story, I had to find that photo for her! The keeper who took the photo was Megan Spofford, and she was kind enough to send me the photo so I could share it with the Bakers as well with all of you. Thank you Megan for thinking to take this photo to capture this beautiful moment!
The wind was a little chilly that day and when the lemurs feel that chill they do the cutest thing. They will wrap their tails around their bodies and huddle together. This is generally called a Lemur Ball. Well, we’re not sure what it was, but the lemurs gathered around Mr. William and included him in the group. And William loved every minute of it! Now William can honestly say he was welcomed with open arms into a lemur ball!
Here at Tanganyika we use the hashtag #wildlyconnected and sometimes that just becomes a thing we say or something we type in after posting a cute photo. But it’s supposed to remind us why we do what we do. We are facilitators of joy, who are providing REAL experiences that our visitors will remember for the rest of their lives. That day, William got to strengthen his connection to the natural world in a wild way. Through this amazing snapshot of that moment and through the kind praise of his mother, I am reminded that there is so much more here than just looking at animals. Tanganyika is a place where people go to connect with living, breathing examples of the wonder of nature. I’m so glad the Bakers had a good time here and I wish William and his family all the best. Thanks for the reminder!