Introducing the most purposely inclusive stadium ever- right here in KC, home of Variety KC’s t #InclusionRevolution. Variety KC has partnered with Sporting KC and the Victory Project to help make Children’s Mercy Park the most welcoming stadium for people with disabilities. It is our hope that other cities, arenas, and stadiums will follow our lead.
The single largest minority population is the 26% of Americans with a disability. Unfortunately, this population is oftentimes invisible because the world simply isn’t built to allow them to participate. With these changes, EVERYONE can participate and enjoy watching Sporting KC play – live!
Here are the changes that make this possible:
- Variety KC’s Sensory Room provides guests a sanctuary if the excitement and environment get overwhelming. Young guests can quiet down with a room filled with sensory toys and gadgets, while parents can still watch the game on a TV until the child is ready to re-enter the game.
- Variety KC Sensory Backpacks can be checked out for FREE at guest services. These backpacks include noise cancelling headsets, weighted blankets, fidget toys and battery chargers for iPads.
- Visitors will find four adult -sized changing tables throughout the stadium. These are located in the family restrooms and allow privacy for families to help toileting with dignity.
- Variety KC Communication Boards are located at the first aid areas of the stadium and will allow non-verbal children to easily communicate their wants and needs to friends and families.
- Children Mercy Park staff has been trained to recognize families who may need assistance and are informed on how to assist in a kind and friendly manner.
- Handicap Parking is available to guests with special needs and ample accessible seating is available, including seating for families and friends.
We are so proud of the efforts to include all kids and families into the world of live in-person soccer! It’s one more step in our goal to create a true inclusion revolution in KC. One where all kids and families are welcome – and all can Be Active, be Social and Belong.
It’s time to be respectful!
These are anxious times, and name-calling or put downs add to the divisive feelings. Unfortunately, some of that poor behavior is exhibited by people in leadership positions and is rightfully called out on media and social posts. Variety KC feels this is a good time to provide some education about words that hurt, and words to avoid.
Maybe an adult stumbles on the sidewalk and claims, “I’m such a spaz,” or a child on the playground uses the R-word (shortened slang for mental retardation).
Most people don’t intentionally mean to hurt someone, but here’s the problem. These terms were used as an insult, a reference to someone who is uncoordinated or doing something stupid. Attaching a term associated with a disability is hurtful and derogatory toward people with a disability. Even when used unintentionally, these words reinforce negative stereotypes.
When the same words are used to intentionally hurt someone with a disability, or physical movements are mimed and mocked – that is a whole other level of inappropriate and awful behavior.
Avoiding hurtful terms is not being politically correct, it is about showing people the same respect you want for yourself.
Sometimes, and fortunately far less often than in the past, you’ll hear a friend or co-worker casually use the R-word or something similar. It can be an uncomfortable situation, but you will feel worse if you don’t address it. After listening to our Variety parents and families, we recommend pulling them aside and saying, “You probably don’t even realize that word can be hurtful to others. Is it alright to use something like “silly” or “ridiculous” instead?’” This lets them gently know that the word isn’t acceptable and that there are lots of alternative words that aren’t offensive.
What other words are problematic? When a person has a disability, it doesn’t define them so others shouldn’t use inappropriate words to define them either! We’ve checked with our Variety family and some of our partners in the industry to come up with the start of a guide to follow when talking about a person with a disability. Terms evolve over time as we learn to best address this sensitive topic. Not everyone will agree with these and we welcome your addition and input.
Don’t say: “Normal Person.” Say instead: “Person without a disability”
Don’t say: “handicapped, crippled, deformed, invalid.” Say instead: “A person with a disability”
Don’t say: “Retarded, tard, moron, or intellectually challenged.” Say instead: “A person with an intellectual disability”
Don’t say: “Mongol, mongoloid, downs.” Say instead: “A person with Down syndrome”
Don’t say: “Spastic, spaz,” Say instead: “A person with a disability or a person with cerebral palsy”
Don’t say: “paraplegic, quadriplegic, paralyzed,” Say instead: “A person with paraplegia, person with quadriplegia”
Don’t say: “confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound,” Say instead: “A person who uses a wheelchair”
Don’t say “dumb” when referring to someone who doesn’t speak. Say instead: “non-verbal”
Don’t say: “dwarf, midget, little person, vertically challenged.” Say instead: “short-statured person”
Don’t say “crazy, insane, lunatic, maniac, mental, psycho, psychopath, skitzo.” Say instead: “A person with a mental illness”
Don’t say “institution, psych hospital, looney bin.” Say instead: “mental health clinic”
Now that we’ve covered how to talk about a person who has a disability, let’s cover how to talk to them. Just say “hi!”
Be yourself, and talk to them directly with eye contact. Don’t refer to their caregiver or family and don’t assume they can’t understand you or respond.
Always ask before jumping in to help, they may not want or need it. If they have a service animal, don’t talk or pet it. These are trained animals who are on the job.
Don’t assume that someone with a disability has other disabilities. For example, when speaking to someone in a wheelchair or with low vision, there’s no reason to raise your voice as if they could not hear you.
When appropriate, offer your name and ask their name. Names give us an identity and are the starting point of creating a bond. Here is a link to the National Disability Association if you would like to see some additional terms and information.
Our Variety KC family has such valuable experiences to share with one another. Today is a day to share, we need to know – what would you do?
A Variety mom shared this story today. It isn’t the first, it won’t be the last, but if we can find a way to better educate others – maybe we can reduce the frequency of these situations.
Parker loves going on walks with his mom. He can’t physically handle a long walk so he uses an adaptive stroller. Throughout the walk, he will get out of the stroller and tackle the hills to work on his strength. Today a man about 30 years of age rode his bicycle up behind Parker and his mom and said loudly, “Don’t his legs work?” Then, he quickly rode off. Mom was seething and tried hard not to show Parker how upset she was.
They came to a stopping point and rather than wait for his mom to prompt him to get out of the stroller, Parker quickly got out and started to walk. It was like he understood those hurtful words and wanted to prove that yes, he can walk! His mom says that’s the part of the story she loves the most, that Parker set out to prove that bully wrong. Here’s what mom wants everyone to know, “This story is not to make Parker an inspiration to anyone, that’s ableism. People with disabilities are just trying to live their life like you and I. It may look different, but we all want the same thing. Parker’s disability may not be visible, but that man’s ignorance is.”
Mom’s shock soon turned to anger and just then, the bike rider was returning. She called out to him, challenging him to have a conversation with her. Like the coward he is, he rode away. Mom’s first instinct is to keep an eye out for him and snap his picture next time, but how do we prevent the “next times?” As mom said, “we’re used to the stares and people asking us questions as Parker makes noises and flaps his hands, but we’ve never been verbally attacked before.” She is concerned that the abuse will get worse as her son gets older, he is already big for his age and it seems that draws unwanted attention too. The silver lining in this story is that another mom and child were with them on their excursion and their support made a world of difference.
When she returned home, she wrote to share this story. It’s so upsetting, it took a while to process and post this blog. Variety truly feels that education and shared experiences can be the answer, but not the whole answer. Please tell us, what would YOU do or say, what have you said or done. How do we reduce the hurt as we go forward with our #inclusionrevolution?
Starlight Theatre approached Variety KC with plans for future inclusive changes. They are our newest partners in the #inclusionrevolution for the arts! Starting next year, you will be able to sign out sensory kits containing noise-muffling headphones and weighted lap pads. These kits will be available at Guest Information and are designed to help kids and their families enjoy the experience longer and more comfortably. Read more about our efforts here:
In addition, two universal changing tables (for older children and adults) will be installed in the east restrooms, one in the east men’s restroom and one in the east women’s restroom. These tables can be adjusted by height. Yes, something as basic as using the restroom can exclude people when it can’t be done safely and in a sanitary manner. At Variety KC, we are never too shy to talk about potties!
Look around you, use this time to consider ways to make the world around you more inclusive. Join Variety KC’s #inclusionrevolution. If you would like to donate to the upcoming Starlight enhancements, visit VarietyKC.org/Donate. Thank you!
IN Kansas City News Spotlight
Our very own Deb Wiebrecht, Executive Director and Chief Inclusion Office of Variety KC, was featured in an article on IN Kansas City’s website this month!
“Bless Deborah Wiebrecht’s heart—she’s one of the hardest working women in philanthropy. Wiebrecht has been the executive director of Variety Children’s Charity of Greater Kansas City for nearly a decade. With a background in media sales, as on-air talent, and in special events, she says her role at Variety KC is a combination of what she’s learned in business and what she’s committed to in her heart—helping to assist children with disabilities.” – Michael Mackie of IN Kansas City
Click here to learn 5 Things You Didn’t Know about Deb!