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Lucknow zoo becomes blind-friendly, an India first

A trip to the zoo is a fun and learning experience.

But for children and adults who are blind and visually impaired, it's not an experience they can enjoy independently. They need a sighted person with them to describe the animals present in different enclosures and their behavioral traits.

That's no longer the case with the Lucknow Zoo, which is the first one on India to become accessible to people with visual impairments. Braille information boards will be put up all across the zoo in phases to enable visually impaired children and adults to enjoy and learn on their own.

In the first phase, the information boards have been set up at the Nature Interpretation Centre, displaying details about the lion, tiger and the zoo's history. Authorities have promised that in less than a month these boards will be set up at every enclosure.

This initiative is the first of its kind in India and the response has been wonderful. Many visually impaired people, adults and children, have told us how much they loved this. We asked the visitors to suggest a name for this initiative as well and they have said we should call it 'Sparsh'. - Dr R K Singh, Director, Lucknow Zoo

The boards are the initiative of an NGO for the blind called Meet Welfare Foundation, which has been working to empower people with visual impairments for about 15 years.

Founder Rohit Kumar 'Meet' says the first phase of the initiative was self-funded, but after seeing the response, zoo authorities have agreed to back the rest of the project.

"Our NGO distributes books in Braille and we had decided to start a library in the zoo when the idea of setting up Braille information boards struck us. Director Singh was also very supportive of the idea. The children who come are very happy with the board as they now get a detailed description".

Many school kids have been visiting the Braille enabled centre and the response has been phenomenal, adds Kumar. "They are excited because they never got the opportunity to understand things in depth. They told us that earlier they would be dependent on others to explain things to them. That is no longer the case."

Going ahead, the Lucknow Zoo is thinking on ways to make it even more accessible and enjoyable like audio recordings of animal noises to give visitors a richer experience.

With these measures, the Lucknow Zoo has taken on a leadership role in introducing accessibility, one that should be an eye opener to others across India.

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