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Akron Zoo receives funding for DEAI initiatives

Wednesday, August 25, 2021 11:23:00 AM

The Akron Zoo has received a grant of $68,000 over the course of two years for their diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion (DEAI) initiatives. This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant ME-249297-OMS 21.

Funds from this grant will be focused on five areas of DEAI at the Akron Zoo – hiring and staff promotions, workplace culture, guest experiences, procurement and partnerships with community organizations. The zoo will work with outside consulting firms to develop DEAI goals, advise on policies, develop accountability measures and implement education about DEAI.   

“When we say ‘you belong’ at the Akron Zoo, we really mean it,” said Doug Piekarz, president & CEO at the Akron Zoo. “We recognize that making everyone feel welcome at our zoo requires an intentional effort to include all people in our diverse community. The Akron Zoo has launched programs in the past as part of our DEAI journey, and as this journey continues to create new understanding, we know there is always more to be done. This funding from IMLS supports a comprehensive DEAI approach reaching into every facet of our operation and community outreach.” 

In 2017, the Akron Zoo partnered with KultureCity to become the second zoo in the country to be certified sensory inclusive. The zoo joined together with other Akron-area cultural institutions in 2018 to expand access for people with financial barriers with the Museums for All program, which provides discounts for anyone holding an Ohio EBT card. 

Recently, the zoo developed an Inclusion Advisory Council, which is comprised of a diverse group of zoo staff members across various departments interested in organizing training and educational opportunities, representing the Akron Zoo at community events promoting DEAI, and advising Zoo executives on DEAI best practices.

"I am so proud of Akron Zoo and thrilled about what this funding will do to help execute the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Strategic Plan Promise to elevate DEAI throughout our profession,” said Dan Ashe, president of AZA. “Akron Zoo’s leadership will model a pathway towards a comprehensive DEAI culture that will certainly catalyze learning and action across our community of members."