The Aquarium of Niagara welcomed 50 children from the Olmsted Center for Sight Preschool Tuesday to take part in one-on-one experiences geared toward the visually impaired.
When the Aquarium of Niagara brought in Della, a blind gray seal, Brooke Kibrick of the Olmsted Center for Sight read about the acquisition and thought it would be a great experience for her visually impaired students to have a nose-to-nose encounter with an aquatic mammal that is also unable to see.
The aquarium enthusiastically embraced Kibrick's idea, and both organizations worked to make it happen.
"Everyone who witnessed the interactions was moved," Kibrick said. "To witness the joy in every child's face was amazing, and I know all our hard work was worth it. We wanted the children to know that, just because they have a visual impairment, they can still do the same things sighted people do - they just have to do it differently. Just look at Della; she does what all the other seals do.
"This hands-on educational experience is invaluable and we look forward to partnering again with the Aquarium of Niagara."
Two different one-on-one experiences were offered throughout the day, including touch tank sessions and sea lion shows specifically geared toward those who are blind or visually impaired.
"This is why I became a teacher," said Sarah Courtney, curator of education. "The aquarium is the perfect place for everyone, because we can customize most experiences."
"Our mission is about education and conservation for everyone," Courtney said. "The aquarium is a fun and educational place to explore, and we truly want everyone, regardless of any limitations, to embrace the wonders of what we offer."