Summer is here, and there is no better way to spend it than cooling down at a water park during a hot day. However, water parks usually aren’t accessible to people who have disabilities. This water park that just opened in Texas is changing that.
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Morgan’s Inspiration Island in San Antonio, Texas is the first waterpark to be fully accessible for people with disabilities. It’s within Morgan’s Wonderland theme park which has been open since 2010.
The waterpark was created by Gordon Hartman and his 23-year-old daughter, Morgan, who has a disability. Gordon says that the park is non profit and he doesn’t make a salary.
This $17 million waterpark has dozens of fun features. The best part is that the park has free admission for anyone who has disabilities.
Gordon said that children and adults that have special needs can sometimes be left out. He said it’s not because they want to be left out, but because a lot of things are just not adequate for them to use.
Gordon said that it’s not about the rides, but about the culture and feeling that people get while visiting the park.
The theme park developed from Gordon’s experience with his daughter Morgan, who has both cognitive and physical challenges. He said that she wanted to experience activities, and felt left out of opportunities that people with no disabilities could do.
Gordon said that his parks are built on feedback from the community. The current park attendance is close to 100k per year, but he thinks this addition will cause the park to double in attendance.
Gordon and his daughter consulted tons of physical therapists, doctors, caregivers, and families with disabilities to create Inspiration Island. This park can now be accessed by 54 million children diagnosed with disabilities nationwide.
Gordon said that by what he has already seen is that it does work. He has seen children that have severe special needs play with other children in a water environment and that now, those without disabilities and those with, will be able to play alongside each other and have an appreciation for one another.
The goal for the water park isn’t to sell tickets. Their hope is to see adaptions like this occur in more waterparks.
Gordon isn’t planning on franchising, but he is happy to help anybody that wants to work towards a more adaptable park.
Even though Gordon’s work is exhausting, his wish to make change is what keeps him on his feet. He said it is the most fulfilling work he could ask for.
Gordon says that this work is better than making a dollar. He said it doesn’t even feel like work, but something different. He always wakes up in the morning wanted to get things started.
Gordon wants to inspire guests to do things they thought they wouldn’t ever be able to do before due to their capabilities. The goal of the waterpark is to provide a wonderful experience in an inclusive, safe, and comfortable environment.
The park provides traceable wristbands for young ones with disabilities who tend to wander off from their parent or guardian. There is also a quiet area for people who are overwhelmed by crowds and noise. The park even has a way to change water temperature for those with sensory processing disorder who are sensitive to cold water.
The park provides fast passes for people who have difficulties waiting in line for a ride. The park also teamed up with University of Pittsburgh to make a new wheelchair.
The wheelchair is called PneuChair. The chair uses compressed air to move instead of batteries. This makes them inexpensive and waterproof. The guests are allowed to use these wheelchairs for free so they don’t damage the battery powered ones that they use on a daily basis.
This park only allows a limited amount of guests at a time to make sure that it doesn’t get too overcrowded. The water is filtered 24/7 and recirculated to assist people who have immune disorders.
The park is now open every day for the entire summer up until the middle of August. The park will then be open only during the weekends of August and September. They have even more facilities that are currently in the making.
The park has a variety of fun attractions. For the main attraction, the riverboat adventure, guests wont have to be searching for wheelchair ramps. Instead, the boat will rise to meet them so the guests can avoid all the extra trouble it takes to get on a ride.
Since the park has come up with a way to prevent overcrowding, people are encouraged to order their tickets online so they can guarantee entrance to the park.
In order to encourage representation, one third of the waterpark’s employees have disabilities. They’re stationed throughout different areas to answer questions and to provide guests a comfortable feeling.
Gordon and his team considered all types of disabilities when it came to employment. It was a very smart idea to add diversity throughout the staff!
Gordon promises to give people with physical or cognitive problems a place where they can splash and play without barriers.
The six major elements, including Calypso Cave and Shipwreck Island Splash Pad, will give these kids hours of fun. Gordon and Morgan are really changing the world for special needs kids!