Calm Waters is an exclusive event for guests with disabilities to explore Shedd Aquarium’s exhibits and experiences in a comfortable and accepting environment. Modifications for this event will include limited capacity and streamlined entry with advance registration. Check back for upcoming dates.
Before you visit
Prepare for your visit with Shedd Aquarium’s sensory-friendly app. Designed for guests with autism and sensory processing disorders in mind, the app helps make Shedd more accessible to all guests. You can download it from iTunes or Google Play.
Where to park
The small parking lot between Shedd and the Field Museum, as well as the Soldier Field parking garage, offer accessible parking. If you’re driving and would like to drop off a passenger, our bus turnaround will get you closest to the sidewalk-level accessible entrance. Please check our traffic alerts page for up-to-date information about parking at Shedd.
Where to enter
Our accessible entrance is located on the southwest side of the aquarium. Look for the statue of a man holding a giant fish.
Aquatic presentation warning
To support social distancing the Aquatic Presentation is unavailable at this time.
The aquatic presentation contains flashing lights which may not be suitable for people who experience migraines, have epilepsy or other photosensitive conditions. Viewer discretion advised.
Compostable bending straws made from biodegradable and recyclable plant-based material derived from natural corn starch are available upon request.
Wheelchairs and rollator walkers
Wheelchairs and rollator walkers are available for free checkout at the information desk on a first-come, first-served basis with photo identification. Wheelchairs will be sanitized between each use. Our behind-the-scenes tours, penguin encounters and shark feeding tours are all accessible for guests who use wheelchairs.
Accessible restrooms can be found throughout the aquarium. Family/companion restrooms can be found throughout the aquarium as well, including guest amenities off the main foyer, Wild Reef, Polar Play Zone.
Adult changing tables are located in the last family restroom in the amenities hall off the main foyer and in the family restroom in the Bubble Net food court hall.
To support our enhanced cleaning measures, all restrooms will be periodically closed for cleaning. Please see a team member to be directed to the nearest accessible restroom.
Designated wheelchair accessible seating and companion chairs are available in the Abbott Oceanarium amphitheater for the aquatic presentation. Please see a Shedd staff member upon arrival at the presentation for assistance.
Sound-reducing headphones are available at the information desk, the 4-D Theater and the Rice Ampitheater for free checkout on a first-come, first-served basis with photo identification. Sound-reducing headphones will be sanitized between each use.
Please feel free to nurse anywhere you are comfortable. A private nursing room is located off the main foyer, please find a staff member to request access. Please note there may be times the room is unavailable for use.
Located in the Northern Trust Suite off the main foyer, the quiet room is available every day. Features include comfortable seating, adjustable lighting, weighted lap pad, sound-reducing headphones and a prayer rug. This space may be used as a calming room, prayer room, or place to privately recharge mobility devices. To support social distancing, the Northern Trust Suite will not be staffed but we can unlock the suite upon requests, so guests can access the quiet room on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please note there may be times the room is unavailable for use.
Automated external defibrillators
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are located throughout the aquarium.
Low-sensory aquatic presentations
To support social distancing the Aquatic Presentation is unavailable at this time.
Low-sensory aquatic presentations are offered regularly on Thursdays at 3:30 p.m. and on the last Sunday every month for the last presentation of the day. Shedd's low-sensory aquatic presentations have reduced volume and dimmed lighting, and all flashing lights have been removed. It is a welcoming, inclusive space, where guests can feel comfortable responding to the presentation in their own way and stepping out if needed. Low-sensory aquatic presentations are also available upon request with at least two weeks' notice. Requested presentations cannot be scheduled during peak attendance periods.
Beyond the environmental modifications, Shedd's low-sensory aquatic presentations will include the same unbelievable animals: Pacific white-sided dolphins, beluga whales and a changing lineup of other favorite animals. The experience is included with general admission; when you arrive, reserve your free tickets at the kiosks in the north lobby of the Abbott Oceanarium. All guests are welcome to attend a low-sensory aquatic presentation and will be notified of the alterations.
Resources for those who are deaf or hard of hearing
American Sign Language interpreters
American Sign Language interpreters can be arranged at no additional charge for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing. We require two weeks’ notice to make arrangements. To request this service, please contact us by emailing [email protected] or calling 312-939-2438 (voice call to Shedd) or 1-800-526-0857 (relay service).
The assistive-listening system is currently down for maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience. Assistive-listening devices can be picked up at the main information desk and 4-D Theater, they will be sanitized between each use. Listening locations include animal chats, 4-D Experience, Abbott Oceanarium and behind-the-scenes tours.
Closed captioning is available for the 4-D Experience in the Phelps Auditorium. Please request a captioning device before entering the theater.
Real-time captioned aquatic presentations are available upon request with two weeks' advance notice. To request this service, please email us at [email protected] or call 312-939-2438.
Resources for those who are blind or have low vision
Audio-described aquatic presentations
Live audio-described aquatic presentations are available upon request with two weeks’ notice. To request this service, please email [email protected] or call 312-939-2438 (voice call to Shedd) or 1-800-526-0857 (relay service).
Recorded audio description
Recorded audio description is available for the 4-D Experience (Phelps Auditorium, subject to availability). Please request a listening device before entering the theater.
Tactile models can be found throughout the aquarium. When touched, the model of a seahorse (seahorses exhibit in the Oceans gallery) or a penguin (Penguin Playscape in Polar Play Zone) plays back identifying information about that body part.
Access the free offering with your smartphone by downloading the app, available for both iOS and Android, creating an account and connecting with a highly trained sighted live agent through a video call that allows them to see what is in front of or near you. For 30-minute intervals, the agent can assist with guiding you through the purchasing process, wayfinding to the nearest dining area, shop or restroom, describing the exhibits with details about size, number of animals, signage and more. If you would like to continue beyond the allotted time, you can call again for a new agent.
Care attendants and service animals
Personal care attendants policy
Guests with severe disabilities may be accompanied by paid personal care attendants (PCA) at no additional cost during their visit to Shedd Aquarium. This applies to all ticketed events, admission, Extraordinary Experiences and special events that the guest is attending. This also applies to membership, complimentary admission and group sales.
Guests with severe disabilities who wish to purchase advance tickets for ticketed events, admission, Extraordinary Experiences, special events, membership and group sales should contact 312-939-2438 (option 9) to request complimentary companion tickets for a paid PCA. These tickets must be picked up in person by the guest and the paid PCA at the point of entry.
Service animal policy
Service animals are always welcome at Shedd Aquarium. They are defined as dogs or miniature horses that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.
Service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.
Shedd Aquarium is home to many animals, some of which may have a strong negative reaction to the presence of unfamiliar animals. For the health and safety of all animals involved, service animals are restricted from the following areas:
- A portion of Amazon Rising: tiled portion at the rear of the exhibit.
- Coastal Walkway is restricted at all times. The entire pathway along the Abbott Oceanarium habitats, from Secluded Bay through Misty Passage, along Whale Harbor and the North Pool. Guests can enjoy underwater views of belugas, dolphins and sea otters in Polar Play Zone, located in the lower level of the Oceanarium.
- Certain areas behind the scenes visited for Extraordinary Experiences. If you are signing up for one of these programs, please contact 312-692-2723 so we can prepare for your visit.
Service animal relief areas are located outdoors on any of the grassy areas surrounding Shedd Aquarium.
Emotional support/comfort animal policy
For the health and safety of the animals at Shedd Aquarium, emotional support/comfort/therapy animals and pets are not permitted anywhere in the building.
If you have other questions or would like information about additional accommodations, please contact Shedd at [email protected] or 312-939-2438.
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