« Back to Spotlights

2023 Awards of Distinction Finalist Spotlight: Accessible Hospitality

Date Published: September 26, 2023

Congratulations to Bardavon 1869 Opera HouseHudson Valley Renegades @ Heritage Financial Park and ​​​​Mid-Hudson Discovery Museum!

Award of Distinction Accessible Hospitality Finalist

Nominees for the Accessible Hospitality Award of Distinction are attractions or events that provide exceptional, welcoming experiences for travelers with disabilities. This could be a lodging property, restaurant, attraction or event that goes above and beyond standard ADA compliance. Join Dutchess Tourism in celebrating all the honorees at the 10th annual Dutchess Tourism Awards of Distinction on Wednesday, November 1, 2023, at The Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home in Hyde Park. Read more about the event and purchase tickets here.


Read on to learn more about each Accessible Hospitality Award of Distinction finalist.

Tell us about your organization/destination.

Adelina Borman, Bardavon 1869 Opera House: Incorporated in 1976, the Bardavon 1869 Opera House, Inc. (the Bardavon) is a New York State nonprofit corporation that owns and operates a 944-seat historic theater in Poughkeepsie which holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously running theater in the state and one of the nation's most ancient. It proudly holds a place on the National Register of Historic Places. The Bardavon offers affordable, world-class arts education programs, music, dance, theater, Live in HD broadcasts, and classic films for the diverse audiences of the Hudson Valley. We present renowned and emerging performers in productions that inspire, entertain, and educate people of all ages, ethnicities and incomes. We also stage free outdoor arts events in local communities. These and all of our activities boost community pride, urban revitalization and cultural tourism, strengthening the quality of life for all. Our diverse events attract audiences from the state’s nine-county Hudson Valley Region that lies between Albany and New York City. And many of our patrons travel regularly from New York City, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and beyond. Through our education program, we collaborate with regional schools to offer unique arts-based learning experiences for students and innovative teaching tools for educators. Central to its mission, the Bardavon remains deeply committed to the ongoing restoration and preservation of its historic theater, a testament to its enduring dedication to cultural heritage.

Marcella Costello, Hudson Valley Renegades: The Hudson Valley Renegades are the High-A affiliate of the New York Yankees in the South Atlantic League. The Renegades play their home games at Heritage Financial Park. Heritage Financial Park originally opened in 1994 with the name “Dutchess Stadium.” The Park is located just off I-84 in Wappingers Falls. Our mission here at the Hudson Valley Renegades is creating magical experiences that become lifelong memories for our entire community!

Jeff Sasson, Mid-Hudson Discovery Museum: It is no surprise that on any one day, you could find 400 guests — parents and children — at the Mid-Hudson Discovery Museum engaging in the cool activities and with each other. We have two floors of fun designed to engage a child's curiosity and imagination. Everything is designed for them, accessible to them. Every week, we have special programs perfect for kids ranging from toddlers to 5th grade. Half the time, parents are learning something new as well.

What are the programs or features that make your organization more accessible to people of all abilities?

Adelina Borman, Bardavon 1869 Opera House: The Theater provides wheelchair-accessible seating and an accessible restroom to accommodate patrons with mobility challenges. The Bardavon offers a T-Coil system on the orchestra level and can provide assistive listening devices to individuals with hearing impairments who might not have hearing aids equipped to function with the T-coil system. These devices amplify the sound from the stage and deliver it directly to the user's ear, improving the listening experience. The Bardavon hosts sensory-friendly performances designed to be more inclusive for individuals with sensory sensitivities. These performances often involve adjusted lighting, reduced sound levels, and a more relaxed atmosphere. Staff members and volunteers receive training on how to assist patrons with various disabilities, ensuring that everyone's needs are met and that all patrons are treated with respect and understanding.

Marcella Costello, Hudson Valley Renegades: Beginning in 2022, the Hudson Valley Renegades partnered with Curemark, LLC to incorporate a Sensory Safe Suite at Heritage Financial Park. Suite #8 has been redesigned as a functional space for families with children on the autism spectrum and with special needs to help better enjoy the game. The Curemark Sensory Safe Suite has features that provide a comforting, relaxing and less stimulating space for guests to experience a Renegades game while still being fun and functional. This allows guests in the suite to decompress and enjoy baseball with their family away from the louder, hectic, and often over-stimulating environment in other areas of the ballpark. The suite includes several sensory-related items for use. Completely free of charge, the suite accommodates groups of 15 people on any given game night. Heritage Financial Park also offers other accessible options including 80 designated ADA seat options with 500 total accessible seats located throughout the ballpark, elevator to access the Suite level, accessible restrooms, handicap accessible parking, and a ramp to access the field from the concourse level.  

Jeff Sasson, Mid-Hudson Discovery Museum: Of course, we are ADA compliant. Moreover, we worked with the Anderson Center to develop an autism-supportive environment. Sensory aids are available for parents to check out at the front desk free of charge and include noise-cancelling headphones, sunglasses, sensory stress balls, and visual cue cards for communicating.


How should businesses strive to make their destinations more accessible?

Adelina Borman, Bardavon 1869 Opera House: Making a destination more accessible is not only a matter of ethical responsibility but also good for business, as it allows a wider range of customers to enjoy your offerings. Begin by understanding the diverse accessibility needs of your potential customers. This includes people with physical disabilities, sensory impairments, cognitive challenges, and more. Consult with experts, organizations, and individuals who can provide insights into the specific requirements. Familiarize yourself with local and national accessibility laws and standards to ensure compliance. Businesses can create a more inclusive and accessible destination that welcomes a diverse range of visitors and contributes positively to our society.

Marcella Costello, Hudson Valley Renegades: Businesses should work at developing ways to be more welcoming for people with disabilities that extend beyond the physical accessibility of parking, seating, restrooms, and allowing service animals. An elevated experience lies within excellent customer service and having a staff that is responsive. Staff members who are helpful and compassionate can create a much safer environment for people with disabilities, significantly improving their experience. Businesses should also continue to build relationships and partnerships with other businesses and organizations in their community to develop new activities, programs, and/or spaces that welcome people of all abilities.

Jeff Sasson, Mid-Hudson Discovery Museum: You have to look at your audience and understand what they need. But more than that, you have to find who is not your audience, and break down the barriers that keep them from coming to your site. 


« Back to Awards of Distinction

« Back to Spotlights