Water parks, though fun, can be awfully dangerous during the summer if not navigated properly. And this is especially true for children with disabilities.
In fact, most water parks aren't even fully inclusive — ensuring all rides are safe for everyone — because under the , they are only required to have accessible wading pools. That's it.
But on Saturday, June 17, will open its doors and change all that. Located in San Antonio, Texas, it's reportedly the world's first water park built for people with disabilities. Activities spanning over 25 acres are inclusive of every ability level, and the park is entirely wheelchair-accessible, .
Six major attractions — all tropical-themed — are located around a seven-story lighthouse. There's a river boat ride through a jungle setting and five main splash pads, which, according to , are more accessible to people with mobility-related disabilities.
"Rain" cascades from giant tree branches at , a garden splash pad with musical instruments and colorful frogs. Our favorite, a warm-water pad called , features a huge spouting purple Octopus (clad in pretty awesome sunglasses).
The "ultra-accessible" park was designed by Gordon Hartman and his 23-year-old daughter, Morgan, who has cognitive and physical disabilities.
"We decided to call it 'Morgan's Inspiration Island' because Morgan truly has been the catalyst for every project we've pursued to help the special-needs community," .
They worked tirelessly with doctors, special education teachers and water park consultants to produce an all-inclusive design down to every detail — and it really seems like they thought of everything.
Some features include high-tech waterproof wristbands (so that parents can easily locate visitors who tend to wander), water that changes temperature (in accommodation to people sensitive to cold water) and PneuChair, a new light-weight, battery-free wheelchair created in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh. At only 80 pounds, the PneuChairs are propelled by compressed air and take just 10 minutes to "recharge."
The park also provides two other wheelchair types — one pushed by a caregiver and a traditional manual one.
Park attendance is always limited to ensure a "milder experience," but there are private "quiet" areas for those who might get overwhelmed in crowds.
Prior to kickoff Saturday, the park was even opened to small groups of people with disabilities, so minor changes could be made in accordance to feedback given.
Morgan's Inspiration Island is located next to its sister theme park, Morgan's Wonderland — also 25 acres and fully accessible — which opened in March 2010. Both are part of a long list of successful projects fronted by the : destinations and non-profit programs including a Paralympic Sports Club called , , a school for children with Special Needs and .
Hartman stressed in a that "like Morgan's Wonderland, Morgan's Inspiration Island is not a special-needs park; it's a park of inclusion." He hopes that the park will inspire people both with and without disabilities, "including individuals in wheelchairs, guests with hearing and visual impairments and even [those] on ventilators, to play alongside each other and gain a greater appreciation of one another."
On opening day, families with will go in first from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and afterwards, those without memberships can attend. Tickets are , and admission is free for those with a disability.
At Morgan's Inspiration Island, everyone is welcome. It's inclusive, innovative and — we're predicting — an instant success come opening day.