KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City’s new airport terminal promises to improve the flying experience in many ways, including for people with a variety of disabilities.

“A real priority of this project from the very beginning is making a facility that is the most accessible new terminal in the world,” said Deputy Director of Aviation Justin Meyer.

“Things like the height of counters, or the lack of vertical circulation just in the everyday movement through the facility makes it a really easy space to use.”

It also means the airport will have four specialty rooms that will help people feel more included.

“I often hear parents talking about that phase where their child is potty training and they have to think about every stop along the way and that relief when that period of time is over,” said Sara Bloomfield. “For people that are in wheelchairs, that time is never over.”

Bloomfield’s daughter, Olivia, used a wheelchair because of her congenital muscular dystrophy. Bloomfield says that means planning out every movement, which could be a challenge at the current terminals at KCI because the only restrooms they could use were outside security.

“When Olivia passed away, the thing that my husband and I both knew very clearly was that she left a map for us that we needed to follow,” said Bloomfield.

That work is why Olivia’s picture will be visible over inclusive changing tables in the new terminal, making sure that people of all sizes with any disability can be cared for with dignity when they travel.

“We want this to be the first impression, when families land in Kansas City, is that we are the most inclusive city in the world,” said Variety KC Executive Director and Chief Inclusion Officer Deborah Wiebrecht.

To do that, the new terminal will have four big features:

  • Quiet room — for prayer, yoga, and other relaxing activities
  • Sensory room — for people with autism to get away from the busy concourse
  • Inclusive Play Area — allowing kids of all abilities to burn all steam before a flight
  • Air Travel Experience — a recreated portion of an airplane for travelers to see what it’s like to fly while on the ground

“I think what’s interesting about an inclusive play opportunity is that able-bodied children play with children that maybe have some differences,” Wiebrecht said. “But when you play together, you forget those differences.”

Wiebrecht says it’s especially important because one in four people have some sort of disability.

“Travelers will be able to practice stepping onto the aircraft, bridging that gap that exists sometimes between the passenger boarding bridge and the aircraft can be a high anxiety moment,” Meyer said.

Wiebrecht said she hopes KCI doesn’t stay the most-inclusive terminal for long.

“We’re hoping that it’ll be a template for other cities that are building new airports or new structures to make sure that this population of special needs people, we’ve removed some of the barriers so that they’re included,” said Wiebrecht.

We’re expecting to find out the official first day of operation for the new terminal in the next few weeks. It’s expected to be in March.