graphic of a man in a wheelchair next to the PVA logo. Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Paralyzed Veterans of America applauds the Kennedy Center for excellence in accessible design, awards them with 2022 Barrier-Free America Award

Post Date: September 19, 2022
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WASHINGTON, DC (Sept. 15, 2022) — Paralyzed Veterans of America – the nation’s premier nonprofit of choice for disabled veterans, their families, and caregivers – today awarded The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with one of its highest and most prestigious honors, the Barrier-Free America Award. Bestowed to the Kennedy Center for their endless commitment to accessibility, the award recognizes exemplary accessible architectural design projects and the amazing people behind them.

“The Kennedy Center demonstrates what accessibility and inclusion is supposed to look like,” said Charles Brown, National President of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “They surrounded themselves with a community of experts and asked the right questions, included innovative details into every renovation, and spent the time to get it right – and THAT is the very essence of what our Barrier-Free America Award is all about and why PVA is so proud to call them a long-time partner. It is also the reason why they lead other performance venues around the world by example when it comes to accessible design.”

Opened to the public for more than 50 years, the Kennedy Center’s roots to accessibility date back decades. Their approach to accessible design is not only holistic but also inclusive – welcoming every patron and performer regardless of one’s visible or invisible limitation. From their first accessible renovation project (at the Concert Hall) to their most recent one (at the REACH), virtually every turn and touchpoint throughout the 17-acre, 1.5 million square foot facility is fully accessible. From their garages, visitor desks and foyers to their removable armrests, restrooms and theaters (to include each of their backstage areas, dressing rooms, and cell phone charging stations), the Kennedy Center left no stone to accessibility unturned.

“As the Nation’s Cultural Center, we believe that all persons have the right to experience, explore, and engage with the arts,” stated Deborah F. Rutter, President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. “As the building’s spaces and theaters have undergone renovations, it was important to us to ensure experts in the field of accessible design and persons with disabilities were included in the conversations. This was an opportunity for us to show respect to our artists and audiences by modeling accessibility for the nation. It is an immense honor to receive this award and we continue to value our longstanding relationship with PVA.”

In 1946, PVA’s founding members came home from World War II unable to fully access the country they had just returned from defending. Barriers to their independence were everywhere: from workplaces, sidewalks, and stores to restaurants, entertainment venues, and even their homes. Today, PVA’s Department of Architecture helps fill that void. PVA architects advise on accessible design projects, from public buildings and stadiums to memorials and other structures. They develop building codes and standards for building designers, developers, facility owners, and contractors nationwide. They also educate people with mobility impairments and the community about accessible design through consultations, seminars, and publications.

To learn more about the PVA Barrier-Free America Award and past winners like, Bob Vila, the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and the Virginal Governor’s Mansion, visit learn more about PVA’s Department of Architecture, visit To obtain b-roll of some of the accessible spaces inside the Kennedy Center and photos from the event visit To obtain video of the event visit

About Paralyzed Veterans of America

Paralyzed Veterans of America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or diseases. The organization ensures veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitors their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funds research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, PVA also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families, and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Learn more at

About the Kennedy Center

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is America’s living memorial to President John F. Kennedy, attracting millions of visitors each year to more than 2,000 performances, events, and exhibits. With its artistic affiliates, the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera, the Center is one of the nation’s busiest performing arts centers dedicated to providing world-class art, powerful education, and outstanding memorial experiences to the broadest possible constituency. Across all its offerings, the Kennedy Center is committed to increasing accessible, inclusive opportunities for all people to participate in, and learn through the arts, including a variety of specially priced ticket programs for students, seniors, persons with disabilities, and others. On September 7, 2019, the Kennedy Center inaugurated the REACH, its first-ever major expansion. Designed by Steven Holl Associates, the REACH provides visitors with new opportunities to interact and engage with the Center as the nation’s premier nexus of arts, learning, and culture. In fall of 2022, On September 8, 2022, the Kennedy Center unveiled Art and Ideals: President John F. Kennedy, a new 7,500-square foot permanent exhibit exploring Kennedy’s presidency and his commitment to the arts.