Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The world's first accessible water park for disabled kids of all ages just opened: wheeeee!

All children deserve to have good, wet summer fun, but not everyone can; water parks can be tricky to navigate for those in wheelchairs, and the ride and attractions may not be accessible at all. A new water park geared toward people of all ages with disabilities has literally leveled the playing field. Morgan's Inspiration Island in San Antonio, Texas, which just opened this weekend, is billing itself as the world's first ultra-accessible water park for guests of all ages and abilities.

It's fun, it's free for guests with disabilities, and it's about time kids of all ages had a place like this.

The park has six major elements with a tropical theme. The River Boat Adventure ride twists and turns for a good five minutes through a jungle setting, with bird and animal sounds. Then there are five water play areas: Hang 10 Harbor, Rainbow Reef, Shipwreck Island, Harvey's Hideaway Bay and Calypso Grove—with raintrees, water falls, pools, geysers, jets, water cannons and tipping buckets. Water at the Rainbow Reef splash pad is warmed, for guests who are sensitive to cold. The park's in a nice setting; it overlooks an eight-acre lake. The centerpiece is a seven-story lighthouse with a rotating beacon on top. 

Every spot is wheelchair accessible. Even better, the park provides custom-made PneuChairs, lightweight wheelchairs propelled solely by compressed air—no heavy batteries, no electronics. There are two other waterproof models: a rigid-frame manual wheelchair and a push-type stroller. They're all complimentary. There are roomy private areas where guests can transfer from their own wheelchairs into Morgan's Inspiration Island waterproof ones. 

The park is accessible in multiple ways. Guests who get overwhelmed by noise can retreat to private, quiet areas (although attendance is capped so that it's generally a calmer experience than other theme parks). There are signs in Braille and a service-animal rest area. The giant bucket of water that fills then tips over onto guests at Shipwreck Island has a visual cue for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing. The park provides waterproof bags to prevent ventilators and O2 tanks from getting wet, as well as water-collar covers for guests who need to cover tracheas. 

Guests can get waterproof wristbands with RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology that enables parents to go to a Location Station and pinpoint where their children or other members of their party are. There are a couple of places to grab a bite and gifts, and private cabanas for rent. Oh, and the park was designed with conservation in mind; water is continuously filtered and recirculated, and will be stored in humongous underground tanks when the park is not in operation.

It's so cool that children and adults with disabilities will be able to experience a water park for the first time. I also love that a generation of children will grow up with this in their lives, a place where they'll feel welcome, included and like any other kid out having a good time. They'll take the fun for granted, just as they should.

Founder Gordon Hartman, a philanthropist and former housing developer, first created the theme park Morgan's Wonderland in 2010 (it's right next door to the water park). Both are named after his 23-year-old daughter with disabilities. As he said, "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."

Hartman and Morgan designed the park with water-park consultants, local doctors, therapists who work with people with disabilities, special-education teachers, parents and caregivers, along with people with disabilities. He doesn't consider it a "special-needs park," he's said: "It's a park of inclusion...designed with special-needs individuals in mind and built for everyone's enjoyment."

The park is open daily through the summer until mid-August, then on weekends in August and September; it's best to book online at Morgan's Inspiration Island.

Photos: Morgan's Inspiration Island


  1. I love that they bill this water park as inclusive, rather than as a "special needs" park!

  2. This is amazing! Consider us officially job hunting in San Antonio!


  3. Ellen,

    thank you for introducing the Island.

    Water parks up until now had been very localised or part of other attractions.

    And the PneuChairs are nifty! I knew pneumatics was a principle in the world of engineering.

    The giant bucket of water and the visual cue.

    "Oh, and the park was designed with conservation in mind; water is continuously filtered and recirculated, and will be stored in humongous underground tanks when the park is not in operation."

    Made me wonder if the Island had a limited season. I hope other Texan parks do this and design with conservation first.

    Hope everyone has a good time at "Morgan's". The water park where everyone knows your access needs like they know your name.

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  5. I love that they bill this water park as inclusive!


  6. Wish we had a place like this for my son in Sacramento looks like so much fun


Thanks for sharing!

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