A Day in the Sun at Zippity Zoo!

Though it has not been a very sunny summer so far, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Minnesota had another wonderful day for their annual Zippity Zoo Day on Friday June 17, 2005. Zippity Zoo Day is co-sponsored by: DynaVox Systems, AbleNet, Prentke Romich and Assistive Technology, Inc. In the years that they have been doing this the weather has been great. They have a special order in for sunshine. One year it was over 110 degrees and only one year they had rain.

For five years UCP of Minnesota has hosted Zippity Zoo Day at the Como Zoo in St. Paul. The zoo has gone through a transformation over those years. The new entrance and visitors’ center has uplifted this zoo and it shows that this community cares about the environment, the people of the community and the animals that call the zoo home.

This year over 125 individuals came to Zippity Zoo Day. In attendance were participants from all over Minnesota and Wisconsin. I interviewed several people who use assistive communication devices:

• Robert Gregory and Shangwen Batchelder sure were enjoying themselves in the sun on the way to see the primates (the monkeys). Bob thought the camera would break if I took his picture. I assured him that it wouldn’t and the picture with this article is the proof.

• Rosemary Schaffer and Jonathon Erspamer were enjoying the Polar Bears and their smiles sure showed it as they watched one bear prance and the other sleep in the shade.

• Jen Kozloski and Ann Kobleski traveled from Cloquet, Minnesota to attend the event this year. They both were happy the sun was shining and they commented, “It is more crowded this year.”

They discussed the communication devices they use. Jen has a DynaVox Dynamite system. Her system is a few years old now and she is waiting for the day she can upgrade her system. Ann mentioned that every assistive communication device is like a computer “As soon as you purchase it, it is obsolete, because of the upgrades being made every day.” She suggests that they have a trade-in system, similar to hockey equipment, where you can trade your device in for a newly upgraded one. Then someone just starting out can purchase your old one. Sounds like a great idea!

•The Ghylin family, Alvin, David, Abby and Curtis traveled to the zoo from Lakeville, MN. They originally lived in Maple Grove, MN, but when the school system was not able to keep up with the technology David needed in order to learn, they moved to Lakeville so David could attend the Minnesota State Academy of the Blind in Faribault, MN.

At the Academy, David receives more one-on-one instruction yet he also has other children to interact with that have a similar range of abilities. They also have the adaptive technology that he needs in order to learn. With all the technology they have in place, he was able to accomplish a lot all by himself: he studied about Latin America, took a quiz, and passed it!

• Peg Johnson is a long-time disability activist. She is the founder of Express Yourself MN, which provides support group and assistive

technology devices to

people in need. Her hope is that there is a better understanding of how to communicate with people with adaptive devices.

•Nathaniel Johns was very sleepy when interviewed. While patiently waiting for lunch in the shade of a great oak, he enjoyed talking with me about his plans for after the interview. He was going to have his face painted with a baseball on it.

If you have never attended Zippity Zoo Day or been to the newly renovated Como Zoo, you might want to think about it. When the weather is nice, it is one of the best events of the summer!