New KCI terminal seeks to improve accessibility

Posted at 2:44 PM, May 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-17 19:20:26-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities has called for the new KCI terminal to be the most accessible in the world.

Mayor Sly James drafted a resolution expressing both his and the council’s support for making it happen. 

But what does that really mean? 

41 Action News went to Michele Ohmes, an ADA expert hired by the Edgemoor team. She's no stranger to KCI.

"I'm so excited about the airport because I was involved when the airport retrofitted," she explained.

In the early 2000's, Ohmes helped bring KCI into ADA compliance, adding accessible shelters in parking lots and pushing for family restrooms. But there was only so much that could be done at the time.

"Space inside the current gate areas is at a premium. We don't even have enough seats or a large enough restroom, so adding the amenities we need to have for our customers is difficult in today's environment," Deputy Director of Aviation Justin Meyer said.

The new KCI presents a clean slate for more than compliance. 

"I spent 10 hours one day on the computer doing nothing but research because I want to make sure we are aware of all the technology," Ohmes said.

For example, Ohmes hopes advances in technology will provide new ways to guide visually impaired and deaf passengers through the terminal.

However, Ohmes emphasized the focus is not only on people with physical disabilities.

"What we're also trying to consider is the quiet spaces, preparation for the different panic disorders or autism," she explained.

Delta Airlines opened such a space for customers on the autism spectrum in April 2016 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. It features a tactile activity panel, a small ball pit, and a bubbling water sculpture.

Right now, these are just discussions between Ohmes and the rest of the Edgemoor team. The aviation department hopes to identify locations for some of the features by the fall, and Ohmes should be able to get to work on details by early 2019.

"It's exciting, but it's endless. I'm just excited that I have a group that really cares," she said.