OPCC Sensory Inclusive Events

Sensory inclusive events at the Overland Park Convention Center

The Overland Park Convention Center has partnered with non-profit KultureCity to become a Sensory Inclusive Certified venue. KultureCity is a leading non-profit recognized nationwide for its resources and change in the community for those with sensory needs.

Individuals with autism, anxiety, dementia, PTSD or other similar conditions may face sensory sensitivities or experience challenges with sensory regulation. The certification process equips venue staff by training with leading medical professionals on how to recognize event attendees with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation.

One of the major barriers for these individuals is sensitivity to overstimulation and noise, which is an enormous part of the environment in event venues. KultureCity’s Sensory Inclusion Program is designed to ensure the best guest experience for those with sensory needs so that all can attend and feel comfortable.

Overland Park is the first convention center in the world to open a KultureCity-approved sensory room for neurodiverse, autistic and disabled attendees.

guest using the sensory room at Overland Park Convention Center

What is a sensory room?

A fully-equipped sensory room is now available at the Overland Park Convention Center for neurodiverse, autistic, and disabled individuals.

In partnership with non-profit KultureCity, the 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, in a secluded part of the building and is available for those who are experiencing sensory overload.

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Reduced Lighting & Noise

Two of the most common sensory triggers during large events are an excess of lighting and noise. Medical professionals created this room to reduce both of these and create a quiet, soothing atmosphere for guests.

Permission-Only Entry

The sensory room is not open to the public; only someone with permission may enter the room. This is an added measure of creating a safe and comfortable space for those using the room to regroup. Guests are permitted to spend 15 minutes in the room unless permission is otherwise given.

Sensory Calming Tools

While a guest is in the room, they have multiple options to help them feel calmer and more relaxed. They can sit in the comfortable bean bags, enjoy the lighting and bubble wall visuals, or use some of the tactile art to help them feel better.

Inclusivity

For many neurodivergent individuals, certain spaces and events can be especially overwhelming. This leads to people missing out on special moments because they are not comfortable or are worried about feeling overstimulated. Our sensory tools and room are here to foster a more inclusive environment so everyone can enjoy the events available at OPCC.

What’s in our sensory room?

Our sensory room is a designated quiet area and is complete with bean bags, visual light panels, bubble walls, activity panels, and a custom tactile art piece created by an autistic artist.

 

Bubble Walls

Two bubble walls act as an engaging and relaxing visual for guests to enjoy. White noise is created when air pumps through the bubble panel. Not only can guests enjoy the soothing sounds of flowing water, but it also helps to drown out other noises.

 

CUSTOM Tactile Art PIECE

One of the highlights of the room is the custom tactile art piece created by an artist with autism. This piece is made to be touched, with a beautiful surface that changes in textures and color.

 

NANOLEAF VISUAL TOUCH PANEL

Visual light panels from Nanoleaf are interactive and give the room an inviting atmosphere of soothing colors and color variation.

ACTIVITY PANELS

Four activity panels are displayed for another soothing activity. The panels encourage guests to use the different available movements and engage with the art pieces.

Activity panels are used to productively distract and occupy attention, giving the mind a fun mental break therefore making it easier to pay attention after the interaction.

 

Comfortable Seating

Guests can take time to relax in bean bag chairs from Yogibo as they enjoy the room.

Sensory Inclusive Certified

Our team obtained our Sensory Inclusive™ Certification in August of 2021 from KultureCity®.

This certification is given to venues who are trained and trusted advocates for those with sensory needs. Over 50% of our staff is now trained on implementing these resources and strategies.

staff member holding sensory bag at Overland Park Convention Center

About our certification

Training

Our venue staff trained with leading medical professionals. They learned important information on how to recognize attendees with sensory needs and how to handle sensory overload scenarios. Oftentimes, neurotypical individuals are not acutely aware of the needs of individuals who experience sensory overload.

As an event organization, we saw a unique opportunity to help make a lasting impact on our community through this certification. Our goal is to better the comfort and enjoyment of our events through this for those with sensory needs.

We recognize that large gatherings or events can be difficult for those who experience sensory challenges. Our certified staff are trained by KultureCity to notice and help event attendees who may be overwhelmed at an event.

sensory bag and accessories it includes such as headphones and fidget items

Sensory Bags

Our KultureCity Sensory Inclusion Bags include noise canceling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards and weighted lap pads. These are available to guests who may feel overwhelmed by the environment during an event.

Part of our certification includes sensory bags as a resource for our guests to borrow while at the venue. These bags are available at no costs to individuals and/or families and are a tool to help guests feel calm and help them with overstimulation. We have cleaning protocols in place to ensure all items are sanitary and ready to go for guests.

staff member hanging sensory inclusive signs at the convention center

Signage

To help guests understand where to go for quiet areas, obtain a sensory bag, headphone zones, and more, we have signage posted throughout our venues. These signs help guests easily identify places they can go when they are feeling overwhelmed or when they want to pick up a sensory bag.

Quiet Area

This sign marks locations that are generally quiet/non-busy areas.  The quiet area rooms are located outside of Ballroom A/A1 and Ballroom C.

Headphone Zone

Headphone Zone signs mark loud, popular areas within the building. These are high-traffic spaces where louder noise is most common.

Sensory Bags Available Here

These signs help guests easily find pick up locations to use this resource. You can also borrow a sensory bag from the security office or ask any staff member to bring you a sensory bag.

Sensory Inclusive Location

Perhaps our most important signage is for Sensory Inclusive Location. This sign lets all guests know that this building has tools and resources in place to foster sensory inclusion and create a more comfortable experience for all.

KultureCity App & Social Story

Prior to attending an event, families can download the free KultureCity App. Here, they can view what sensory features are available, where they can access them, and other helpful information to learn what to expect while at our venue and other certified venues.

Along with other helpful features, the KultureCity App includes a Social Story component. Users can click through the photos of the venue and learn about what their visit to the convention center will be like in this step-by-step walkthrough.

The Social Story covers everything from entering the building and finding their event, to interacting with our staff and finding quiet areas. The goal of Social Story is to help guests feel more prepared by providing this in-depth information to them before they attend an event with us.

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FAQ

What is a sensory room?

A sensory room is a space created specifically to help someone who is feeling physically and/or emotionally overwhelmed from overstimulation. Certain types of overstimulation that can occur at an event are loud noises, bright lights, and lots of people and movement. A sensory room is a quiet place for guests to go when they are feeling overwhelmed to regain a sense of calm and comfort so they can continue to enjoy their visit.

The design of the sensory room is a space that invites calmness and focus. We accomplished this through providing comfortable seating, tactile art, and activity panels to give guests something to occupy their time in the room.

The goal of the sensory room is to provide sensory accessibility so everyone can enjoy and feel welcome at events at Overland Park Convention Center.

What is in a sensory bag? 

When you get a sensory bag at an event at Overland Park Convention Center, it comes with tools to help you feel calm during your visit. This includes multiple fidget tools, a weighted lap pad, noise canceling headphones, and verbal cue cards. Our guests use these tools to help them feel less overwhelmed during their visit.

Where do I pick up a sensory bag?

You can borrow a sensory bag from the security office or ask any staff member for a sensory bag. You can also pick up a sensory bag before or during your event at designated locations by looking for the sign labeled “Sensory Bags Available Here.”

How long can a guest use the sensory room? 

The sensory room is available for guests in 15-minute increments unless permission is given otherwise. This ensures that it is as accessible as possible for multiple guests on a given day. We designed this space to be inviting and calming for guests so they can feel at ease in a comfortable space until they are ready to rejoin their event.

What is KultureCity?

KultureCity is a non-profit organization seeking to improve the quality of life for those with sensory needs. KultureCity works to help individuals engage in their community by educating different types of organization on how to be more sensory inclusive. They offer certifications, hands-on staff training, and many other tools to help all types of businesses create a more welcoming environment for everyone.

“To know that you soon will be able to see families attend a basketball game, a true community binding experience, with their loved ones who have a sensory challenge and who were not able to previously attend, is truly a heartwarming moment,” said Dr. Julian Maha, Co-Founder 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.” 

Since the program’s inception, KultureCity has created over 350 sensory-inclusive venues in 4 countries: this includes special events such as the NFL Pro-Bowl, NFL Super Bowl and MLB All Star Weekend. KultureCity has won many awards for its efforts, including the NASCAR Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award in 2017 and the 2018 Clio Sports Silver for social good in partnership with Cleveland Cavaliers/Quicken Loans Arena. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Quiet Space Sensory Room at Quicken Loans Arena was a finalist for the 2018 Stadium Business Award, and recently, KultureCity was named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2019 by FastCompany.

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