Kauffman Center opens new accessibility resources in partnership with Variety KC

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Kauffman Center / Photo by David Riffel

On October 1st the Kauffman Center, in a 10-year partnership with local organization Variety KC, announced new amenities that celebrated inclusive arts experiences. The new features will support the Center’s ongoing effort to ensure attending a performance is a positive experience for all. Variety KC parents and children attended a ribbon cutting ceremony and were invited to be the first to experience these new additions.

Variety KC understands the challenges that families face when navigating a world that is not designed for children with disabilities. The organization has been working for years to provide adaptive equipment and opportunities for children with developmental disabilities. The Variety KC supported amenities are a meaningful step to ensure all audiences can experience the performing arts at the Kauffman Center.

Variety KC parent Nancy Truitt, who was in attendance with son Maddox (age 16) shared, “As the parent of a child with special needs, it is really exciting that the Kauffman Center is so willing to create access for all and has such an interest in becoming a leader in the inclusion revolution that is happening here in Kansas City.”

The Variety KC kids and parents were the first to explore the Kauffman Center’s new accessibility amenities made especially with them in mind. The official opening day for the resources was marked with a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by families attending Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild Live! matinee.

Family in the newly opened Serenity Room / Photo by David Riffel

The two new Variety-supported Serenity Rooms were especially notable. The rooms offer a quiet, welcoming space that patrons can visit when they need a little privacy or to take a break from the performance or crowds. Each Serenity Room is equipped with comfy furniture, outlets, dimmable lights, and sensory items like a fiberoptic color changing lamp and playable art sculpture. All of these items can help someone relax and refocus in potentially stressful or overwhelming moments. Since each Serenity Room is outfitted with a monitor, patrons don’t need to worry about missing a moment of the performance they came to see. Patrons can use either of the two Serenity Rooms during a visit to the Center by asking a staff member or volunteer.

“The Kauffman Center is an exceptional experience and the accommodations you guys have put in are just wonderful!” Variety KC parent Carol Caron said. “The sensory room was so well thought out and is going to be just the thing needed for families to go and enjoy shows who would not be able to otherwise.”

Sensory Kit / Photo by David Riffel

New Sensory Kits made available by Variety KC were also on hand and used by many families throughout the morning. Each kit includes noise-muffling headphones, a weighted lap pad, and a handheld sensory item. These items are designed to provide comfort and sensory stimulation for someone who is affected by the sights and sounds of a performance. During all performances, Sensory Kits will be available for complimentary use by any patron at Coat Check, located on the Plaza Lobby Level.

Universal changing table / Photo by David Riffel

Family restrooms at the Kauffman Center have always featured changing tables for the very young, but the newly added universal changing tables, located in the Mezzanine Level family restroom and First Aid Office, can accommodate infants to adults. Variety KC parent Katie Ernzen, who was in attendance with her son George (age 6), was thrilled by this addition.

Being able to take George to see Jack Hanna at the Kauffman Center was a dream come true,” Ernzen said. “The new accessible restrooms, equipped with adult changing tables, gave me peace of mind knowing that I wouldn’t have to worry about where to change George’s diaper. In fact, we used the new changing tables twice while at the Kauffman Center and they were perfect!”

Shortly before the ribbon cutting ceremony was set to begin, special guest Jack Hanna made an appearance to greet attendees and take a photo with each Variety KC family. Families delighted in the exclusive, intimate time with America’s favorite zookeeper.

Variety KC family with Jack Hanna / Photo by David Riffel

Janet Mark, vice president of development at the Kauffman Center, welcomed those in attendance for the ribbon cutting ceremony and reinforced the Center’s commitment to provide inclusive arts experiences to all patrons. Other speakers at the ceremony included Kansas City’s First District Councilwoman Heather Hall, vice president of Variety KC board Marc Harrell, and Variety KC kid Olivia Bloomfield. Amid many poignant comments from the speakers, the most endearing address came from 7-year-old Olivia.

“I’m here today to thank Variety KC and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Thank you guys for letting everyone be able to come here, be safe, have fun, and not have to worry about anything. Thank you for making the arts available to everyone!” Olivia said.

Variety KC kid Olivia Bloomfield at the ribbon cutting / Photo by David Riffel

Following the ceremony, Variety KC families made their way into Muriel Kauffman Theatre to enjoy the Jack Hanna Into the Wild Live! matinee performance. As Jack Hanna took the stage, the Variety KC children and parents clapped enthusiastically alongside approximately 1,500 other students from area Kansas City schools. The hour-long performance featured animal facts and tales from Hanna, along with appearances from many animals including a penguin, sloth, and kangaroo. The audience delighted in the chance to experience this fun, yet informative performance.

Jack Hanna on Muriel Kauffman Theatre stage / Photo by David Riffel

The Kauffman Center is committed to providing an enjoyable, safe, and welcoming environment for all patrons to experience live performing arts. Unveiling the new accessibility resources was another major step forward for the Center as they work to provide access to the performing arts for all.

For a full album of photos from the October 1 ribbon cutting event, visit our Flickr.

To learn more about the Kauffman Center’s accessible amenities, visit the accessibility page on our website.