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Overland Park Convention Center: Innovators in the Sensory Space

Overland Park Convention Center: Innovators in the Sensory Space

By MPI KC Communications

According to a 2017 study, up to 16% of the general population have symptoms associated with sensory processing challenges. And thanks to sensory accessibility non-profit KultureCity, Overland Park Convention Center (OPCC) has created a safe space for those affected, particularly during events. 

Since 2021, OPCC has housed the world’s first fully equipped sensory room for neurodiverse, autistic and disabled individuals. These individuals can find certain spaces and events to be extremely overwhelming. In partnership wiith KultureCity, Overland Park’s sensory room is a dedicated space created by medical professionals with reduced lighting and noise for guests who may feel overstimulated and need a more secure environment.

The room is located at the venue’s Exhibition Hall A entrance on the upper level, while a guest is in the room, they have multiple options to help them feel calmer and more relaxed. In the room guests will find bean bags, visual light panels, bubble walls, activity panels, and a custom tactile art piece created by an autistic artist.

“We believe in inclusion at every game, event, organization so certifying Overland Park Convention Center was amazing; not only that, to build out the first KultureCity certified sensory room at a convention center was remarkable,” said Uma Srivastava, executive director of KultureCity. “Our communities are what shapes our lives and to know that the Overland Park Convention Center is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, is included in their community is amazing.”

The OPCC first achieved a Sensory Inclusive certification with KultureCity in Aug. 2021, making all programs and events hosted at the venue sensory inclusive.

The certification process equipped convention center staff by training with leading medical professionals to recognize attendees with sensory needs, and how to handle a sensory overload situation. Sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by individuals with autism, anxiety, dementia, PTSD and other similar conditions. As an event organization, OPCC saw a unique opportunity to help make a lasting impact on their community through this certification. Their goal is to better the comfort and enjoyment of the events through this addition for those with sensory needs.

“After completing our certification and learning so much about the challenges faced by this community, creating a sensory room was a logical next step for us,” said Brett C. Mitchell, general manager of the OPCC. “One of the major barriers for these individuals is over stimulation and noise, which is an enormous part of the environment in event venues. With this initiative, the convention center is better prepared to assist guests with sensory sensitivities so they can attend and feel comfortable.”

Sensory bags, equipped with noise canceling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards, and weighted lap pads are also available to all guests at the convention center who may feel overwhelmed by the environment.

Prior to attending an event, families can download the free KultureCity App to see what sensory features are available at the convention center and where they can be accessed. The apps ‘Social Story’ feature also provides a preview of what to expect while at the venue.

KultureCity is a leading non-profit recognized nationwide for using its resources to revolutionize and effect change in the community for those with sensory needs, not just those with autism. Sensory room and tools are here to foster a more inclusive environment so everyone can enjoy the events available at Overland Park Convention Center.


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