The Kansas City Zoo plays such an important role in connecting children to the natural world. Still, not every child is able to fully experience every part of our Zoo. Kansas City Zoo and Variety KC have partnered to bring an all-inclusive exploration area to Kansas City, making this the first all-inclusive playground of its kind at any Zoo nationwide.
Kansas City Zoo hopes to set a precedent of inclusion for all kids with the new Variety KC Exploration Play, set to open this May. This nature-focused playground will be located in Africa between the painted dog and hippo habitats and near the Safari Landing stage. Variety KC has partnered with the Kansas City Zoo to ensure that the new area is fully inclusive, allowing children of all abilities to play alongside one another.
This partnership formed last year when the Zoo was planning for a new nature play area and reached out to Variety KC in order to ensure its features were inclusive to children with of all abilities. In all features of the new Variety KC Exploration Play area, every consideration has been made for absolute inclusiveness. The exciting new equipment will include a zip line that has companion harnesses so a parent or partner can accompany a child with special needs. There is an “elephant swing” that is accessible for children with special needs, but accommodates multiple children to encourage engagement among all kids on the swing. Special solid surfacing will allow children in power wheelchairs or using gait walkers to access all areas of the exhibit. Although ADA accepted, a single piece of mulch from a mulched playground surface can damage the mechanics of a power wheelchair. The area will also offer a low-sensory-quiet-zone area. Special sensory kits will also soon be available for check out at the Zoo’s Guest Relations.
Variety KC Exploration Play’s inclusiveness extends beyond children. This totally accessible and inclusive play destination is also a benefit to grandparents who may be mobility challenged, or for a parent who may be disabled.
Variety Kansas City (“Variety KC”) is an organization that advocates for the inclusiveness of children with disabilities within the Kansas City community. Variety KC is a local chapter of International Variety and all money raised in our area stays here. Based on feedback from other Variety chapters, Kansas City is rapidly becoming a leader in inclusive communities. In the past three years, Variety KC has been involved in building two inclusive ball fields, four inclusive playgrounds, launched the first inclusive ice hockey and ice skating programs, and consulted on a number of inclusion-focused projects.
“The new Variety KC Exploration Play will help ensure that all of our guests, including those with disabilities, have a positive experience. We want every family that visits to be able to make wonderful memories together at the Zoo”, said Randy Wisthoff, Executive Director/CEO of Kansas City Zoo.
Deborah Wiebrecht, the Executive Director of Variety KC, is excited to partner on this project that will serve so many Zoo guests. “What the Zoo is doing will improve lives here in Kansas City and offer enjoyment to the thousands of families who visit our area and Zoo each year. Variety KC is proud to be a part of this exciting project.”
Construction on Variety KC Exploration Play is currently underway with a projected open date of May 2018.