How Do I Make an Aquarium Touch Tank More Accessible?

Jul 06, 2018

Anonymous asks, quote:

I’m an able bodied person who works at an Aquarium. We have touchpools where guests can interact with animals. Unfortunately the damn things are designed with a high tank wall and step so anyone unable to stand or step up cannot interact with the animals. The company won’t be remaking the tanks anytime soon. I can’t remove the animals from their tank so pass props arround (Their pretty awesome ones). So to get to the point, do you have any other ideas of how I can try to include those who can’t step up to the touch tank?.

end quote.

If a disabled kid comes to the aquarium and realizes there’s no good way to experience the touch tank, they’re gonna be kinda bummed. What they can experience, however, is you. Spend a little extra time with them. Answer an extra question or two. Maybe share a weird or interesting fact about the specific animals in the touch tank that most people may not know (maybe one ‘em likes to spit at the care taker or tried to escape once). And then talk to whatever adult they are with and maybe point out the exhibits that are more wheelchair friendly and extra fascinating. I guarantee you that after the “bummer” that was the touch tank, they’re gonna be looking for a way to lift their kid’s spirits and have them focus on the things they were able to fully explore at the aquarium.

If I was going to make the tank more wheelchair accessible and wasn’t allowed to lower it, I would probably do something like this (I’m assuming this “step” runs around the entire perimeter of the tank:

  1. Widen the step into a platform wide enough to hold several people standing next to each other.
  2. Add a safety railing
  3. Put an ADA compliant ramp on either side of the platform.

Unfortunately, this is not a right now kind of solution. This sort of thing takes time and money (though it’s probably cheaper than lowering the tank).