Most of us probably have at least one or two memories of hot summer days spent splashing around and zipping down slides at a water park. What many of us fail to realize, however, is how inaccessible and dangerous these places can be for those with disabilities. This is the reason behind the opening of Morgan’s Inspiration Island in San Antonio, Texas, the world’s first water park specifically designed for people with disabilities and special needs.
Morgan’s Inspiration Island
Morgan’s Inspiration Island is a new extension of Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first-ever accessible theme park. The park was founded by Gordon Hartman and is named after his daughter Morgan, who has a disability. (1)
Gordon understands first-hand how scary theme parks, and especially water parks, can be both for the person with the disability and for the parent or caregiver. For many, enjoying a water park just like other kids get to is simply not an option. This was the inspiration behind Morgan’s Wonderland and Morgan’s Inspiration Island. (1)
“Morgan’s Inspiration Island promises to give individuals with physical or cognitive special needs a place where they can splash and play without barriers,” Gordon said. “[It] is not a special-needs park; it’s a park of inclusion.” (1)
Gordon worked with parents, caregivers, doctors, teachers, and special needs therapists to build this extension of Morgan’s Wonderland so that it would be safe, fully accessible, and meet the needs of the parents and children who attend the park. (1)
The Specific Amenities
Morgan’s Inspiration Island offers specific amenities that allow it to be fully accessible to all, including those with physical or cognitive disabilities.
- Traceable bracelets: These are bracelets that parents and caregivers can use to track their children, so they know where they are in the park at all times and can find them easily. (1)
- PneuChairs: PneuChairs are specialized, air-powered, water proof wheel chairs. Families can rent them for free at the park and return them at the end of their visit. (1)
- Water Temperature Control: Some disabilities make people much more sensitive to cold water. Morgan’s Inspiration Island has the ability to quickly change the water temperature to warm up the water to an acceptable level so those guests can enjoy the water just like everyone else. (1)
- Free Admission: Gordon understands the extra costs that come along with raising a child with a disability. At Morgan’s Inspiration Island, all children with disabilities and special needs are given free entry into the park. (1)
The goal of Morgan’s Inspiration Island is to create a safe, comfortable, and not too crowded environment for children and adults with disabilities to make life long memories and have a fun experience at the water park just like other kids. (1)
What Makes Regular Water Parks So Inaccessible?
For kids with disabilities, many water parks are simply not an option, for many reasons:
- They are crowded. These large crowds not only make it difficult for parents to keep a close eye over their more vulnerable children, but crowds can often be overwhelming and stressful for those with disability. (1)
- Swimming abilities. Most water parks have a number of pools and attractions that have deep pools, waves, and again, crowds. Many with disabilities lack the ability to swim or are not strong swimmers. Deep pools, wave pools, and highly crowded pools with rambunctious children pose a serious safety risk for many with disabilities. (1)
- Water in general. Most wheel chairs are not built with swimming and water parks in mind and are not meant to be in that situation. As mentioned earlier, some with disabilities have difficulty regulating their body temperature in cold water which prevents them from enjoying most water parks, public pools, and splash pads. (1)
These details that most of us who do not have a mentally or physically disabled person in our lives don’t think about effect those children’s ability to engage in the same care-free play that other kids their age get to do. This can have a direct impact on their development. (2, 3)
Why Care-Free Play is so Important for Kids
Play is crucial for the cognitive, social, physical, emotional development of children, youth, and teenagers. It also allows time for children to connect with their parents and create a stronger familial bond. (2, 3)
Children with disabilities rely on their parents, other adults, and institutions to adapt the environment so that it is safe for them to play without restraint. Sometimes it may appear that a child with a disability is not interested in play, however often they can be more shy or timid and just need encouragement and assurance that this is safe and will be fun. The impact of care-free play is every bit as strong and pivotal to their development as it is to any other child. (2, 3)
We applaud Morgan’s Wonderland and Morgan’s Inspiration Island for making carefree play safe and accessible for all children. We hope that spreading the word about the theme park will increase awareness on the issue of accessibility of these establishments, start conversations in other cities and towns about how they can increase accessibility for all children, and also support Morgan’s Wonderland in their continued quest to allow all children to play and have fun.
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