World’s First Water Park for People with Disabilities Opens in the U.S.May 22, 2019
A new water park has opened in San Antonio, Texas, which has been purposely built to accommodate guests of all abilities. The park, Morgan’s Inspiration Island, has been carefully designed to be fully wheelchair-accessible, filled with specialized rides and attractions that offer safe and comfortable fun for a wide range of people with disabilities. Guests with disabilities are also welcomed into the park free of charge.
Though many theme parks in the U.S have at least one accessible attraction to comply with federal law, nothing has come close to the universal accessibility boasted by Morgan’s Inspiration Land. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, public water parks are only required to have an accessible wading pool. Those with limited mobility rarely get the opportunity to access actual rides and attractions. But at Morgan’s Inspiration Land, it’s a totally different story.
The park features six major tropical-themed attractions including a river boat ride, a giant jungle tree house with water cannons and a ‘Hang Ten’ water dome. There are several splash pads that provide all the fun of a water park, but are much safer than pools, for people with limited mobility. The Rainbow Reef is specially designed with temperature controlled water, for guests of all ages who may not be able to tolerate water that isn’t heated.
Guests are provided with high tech, waterproof wristbands so that parents and carers can easily find those who tend to wander. Quiet areas are also provided, in case guests become overwhelmed by noise or crowds. Park ticket sales are limited to ensure a quieter, easier experience for those who visit.
The inclusive water park is located right next to its sister park, Morgan’s Wonderland, which was launched in 2010 by philanthropist Gordon Hartman. Morgan’s Wonderland is a 25-acre, fully accessible theme park, that has been visited by over a million people in the past 7 years. The park’s growing popularity inspired Hartman to expand to an inclusive, water-based fun park for all. The $17 million-project was made possible with the help of generous donors.
“Like Morgan’s Wonderland, Morgan’s Inspiration Island is not a special-needs park; it’s a park of inclusion,” says Hartman. The park will inspire guests to do things previously thought not to be in their range of capabilities. Those without disabilities and those with, including individuals in wheelchairs, guests with hearing and visual impairments, and even guests on ventilators, will be able to play alongside each other and gain a greater appreciation of one another.”
Hartman worked with his 23-year-old daughter Morgan who lives with disability. They worked tirelessly to develop the new place with the help of water park consultants, doctors, therapists, special education teachers, families, caregivers, and members of the disability rights community. And before the official opening on Saturday, small groups were invited to test drive the attractions and give feedback for last minute adjustments.
“Morgan’s Inspiration Island would have been an absolute dream to me as a kid. Accessibility is so often an add-on or an afterthought, but here they’ve really thought through everything to make the park ‘ultra-accessible’. I have very little muscle function, and get cold quickly, so the way they can change the water temperature, is ideal. It shows a brilliant level of insight into different individuals’ needs, which is really quite unusual. The fact that this waterpark has accessibility built into every feature is truly inspiring.”
And it really does seem like they thought of everything. Hartman even worked with the University of Pittsburgh to develop special, light weight, waterproof wheelchairs that guests can use for free. They’re called PneuChairs, and are powered by compressed air instead of batteries. They take only ten minutes to recharge, as opposed to multiple hours like electric wheelchairs, and provide a better alternative than expensive, bulky chairs that users often need to rely on.
To top it all off, Hartman, Morgan and their team designed the park to be water conscious. The water is constantly recirculated and filtered, which is also helpful to those with immune sensitivities.
Inspiration Island will be open every day throughout the summer. Reserve tickets, and find out more about the park at www.morganswonderland.com.