HAVANA: The rhinos, giraffes and lions that populate Cuba’s national zoo have long been a wonder for all, but for deaf Cubans like Tatiana Romero, tours of the sprawling facility outside Havana have recently become a lot more welcoming.
Earlier this year, sign language interpreters began accompanying groups of deaf visitors aboard the bus and trails that take them across an enclosed plain designed to imitate the African savannah.
“When I was a child I used to visit the park. But many years have passed,” said Romero, 35, who lost her hearing in the womb. “The interpreter was a great surprise, now I can understand everything.”
The tours are one among several innovative program the state-run and operated zoo offers for people with disabilities, including animal therapy for children with Down’s syndrome, autism and other special needs.
“Previously, very few (deaf) people visited the zoo because they could only see the animals,” said Yoandra Oliva López, an interpreter and educator with the zoo. “Now many more are visiting.”