Where Inclusion is designed to have fun

The dynamics of fun parks are based on physical challenge and all kinds of visual or auditive impressions. Did you ever think about how people with a disability can enjoy the rides? Now, you can even try it.

It is said to be the world’s first fully inclusive splash park. According to their own statement, Morgan’s Inspiration Island, San Antonio, Texas, is the first ultra-accessible splash park where guests of all ages and abilities can get wet and have fun together. Also in Europe, many fun parks offer a variety of services for visitors with a disability. In the case of Disneyland® Paris this covers hearing impairment, reduced mobility, mental or cognitive disabilities, photosensitive epilepsy, or visual impairments. Other parks in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria or the Netherlands mention a few services. In most cases, though, some (or several) of the rides are restricted due to security standards. In fact, people may wonder if substantial accommodation is needed to enable visitors with a disability to participate fully.

Like the neighbouring Morgan’s Wonderland, the new Morgan theme park is “not a special-needs venture; it’s a park of inclusion,” said Gordon Hartman, founder of The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, which since 2005 has pursued endeavors benefitting the special-needs community. “Both were designed with special-needs individuals in mind and built for everyone’s enjoyment.” He also noted that non-profit Morgan’s Wonderland admits anyone with a special need free of charge, and the same policy is in effect at Morgan’s Inspiration Island. “Our goal is to provide a great guest experience in an inclusive, safe, comfortable, not-overly-crowded environment,” Hartman added. As an additional goal, they promise to give individuals with physical or cognitive special needs a place where they can splash and play without barriers.

Just as is the case with Morgan’s Wonderland, every (!) Morgan’s Inspiration Island element is wheelchair-accessible, and waterproof wristbands with RFID technology are available so parents can go to a Location Station and easily ascertain the whereabouts of their children and other members of their party. Other special features include the capability of conditioning water to a warmer temperature at Rainbow Reef so guests with sensitivity to cold can still splash and play.

“In addition, we recently unveiled with the University of Pittsburgh revolutionary new wheelchairs propelled by compressed air,” Hartman said. “Our guests in expensive battery-powered wheelchairs can’t afford to get them wet, so we have special Morgan’s Inspiration Island PneuChairs® available first-come, first-served, along with two other waterproof wheelchair models – a push-stroller type for guests needing assistance from a caregiver for mobility and a rigid-frame, manual wheelchair for guests who can push themselves. The first PneuChairs® to go into service are prototypes that are already undergoing significant improvements.”

Overall, the example of Morgan’s Inspiration Island shows how much can be done to achieve comprehensive inclusion. Many barriers that are initially perceived to be insurmountable, may require extra efforts. The reward can be a unique experience for everyone, and especially for those who value inclusive environments.