Kansas City's new airport terminal carries on the legacy of a 10-year-old who fought for inclusivity
Olivia Bloomfield, who died in 2022, was a Leawood resident and avid traveler who was born with congenital muscular dystrophy. In January, Kansas City Council officially dedicated the universal changing restrooms at KCI in her memory.
The new Kansas City International Airport terminal, which officially opened this week, aims to be the “most inclusive” in the world, and the late Olivia Bloomfield helped influence one small aspect of the landmark project.
Bloomfield, who died last year, was a Leawood resident and Corinth Elementary student born with congenital muscular dystrophy who, in her decade of life, became a well-known local advocate for inclusivity and accessibility.
While she was an avid traveler, she often struggled while passing through the old KCI due to restrooms that were not accessible for her motorized wheelchair.
Now, the new KCI terminal features accessible restrooms that bear Olivia Bloomfield’s name, as well as an all-inclusive play area, similar to the playgrounds she championed when she was alive.
The new restrooms, which are clearly marked and feature adult-sized changing tables and handrails, among other accommodations, are meant to be accessible to anyone with a disability.
Sara Bloomfield, Olivia’s mom, said at the old KCI, individuals with disabilities and their families often found themselves waiting in line to use the family restrooms inside the security gates because they couldn’t access the regular restrooms in the terminal.
“It’s such a delight to see that anybody would feel very comfortable and have a place that works for them,” Sara said. “Having the basics, people don’t realize, wheelchair users didn’t have that before. It was truly a barrier to even getting on an airplane out of Kansas City.”
Olivia had previously talked about her challenges at the old KCI with Kansas City Councilmember Heather Hall.
After Olivia died in July 2022, Hall made the request to name the restrooms after her.
A Jan. 19 resolution officially dedicated the universal changing restrooms at the terminal to Olivia’s memory.
“It’s bittersweet because Olivia isn’t here to use it, but I know that she had a hand in it and she would be so very proud of her city,” Sara said.
New KCI also features inclusive play area
A $250,000 all-inclusive play area is the product of Variety Kansas City, a Shawnee nonprofit for children with disabilities with which Bloomfield often worked.
Deborah Wiebrecht, Variety KC executive director, said the KCI play area features a mock radio tower and airplane where children with and without disabilities can play together.
Wiebrecht said she fundraised and planned the playground herself with the approval of the city.
Wiebrecht said she got involved in the planning of the new terminal six years ago to ensure accessibility remained a top priority.
The playground features a message that Kansas City is the “most inclusive” city in the world, she said.
Wiebrecht said the nonprofit partners with places like Science City at Union Station and Legends Field in Kansas City, Kansas, to create accessible buildings metrowide.
“I actually have families that will call me and say, ‘We’re choosing to move to Kansas City because my child has a rare disease, needs to be seen by specialists, but we’ve heard your city is more inclusive than any others,’” Wiebrecht said.
This story was originally published on the Shawnee Mission Post.