Morgan's Inspiration Island: The world's first wheelchair-accessible water park opens this weekend

Morgan's Inspiration Island is 'a park of inclusion', according to its founders

Julia Buckley
Friday 16 June 2017 10:43 BST
Morgan's Inspiration Island will be the world's first accessible waterpark
Morgan's Inspiration Island will be the world's first accessible waterpark (Robin Jerstad)

Travelling with a disability usually requires extra effort – not to mention time, expenditure and hassle. But a new water park opening in Texas tomorrow aims to make all those problems disappear.

Morgan’s Inspiration Island, which calls itself the world’s first accessible waterpark, has been designed especially for people with mobility issues. What’s more, every visitor with a disability gets free entry.

The water park is part of Morgan’s Wonderland, an accessible theme park in San Antonio that opened in 2010. Owners Gordon and Maggie Hartman named it after their daughter, Morgan, who has both physical and cognitive disabilities. Inspiration Island will, the Hartmans say, be “the world’s first all-inclusive splash park.”

The $17m (£13m) park, overlooking the Wonderland’s fishing lake, will have six attractions including a jungle-themed five-minute river boat ride which is wheelchair accessible. Five tropical-themed “splash pads” or play areas will include elements like geysers, water cannons, jets, “raintrees” and “tipping buckets”.

Rather than risk damaging your own wheelchair, the park has designed specially accessible, waterproof wheelchairs, which are powered by compressed air instead of batteries. The lightweight chairs – which weigh about half of a normal power chair – are handed out for free on a first come first served basis. Waterproof buggies and manual wheelchairs are also available. Service animals are allowed in the park, though not on the splash pads.

Other features include water temperature control, so cold-sensitive visitors can still use the attractions, special quiet areas for those sensitive to noise, and high-tech wristbands designed to locate guests who might wander. Even the water is constantly filtered and recirculated, to make it eco-friendly as well as as healthy as possible.

The park offers waterproof wheelchairs free of charge to visitors (Robin Jerstad/Morgan's Inspiration Island)

Srin Madipalli, CEO of Accomable who has done everything from scuba dive in Bali to wheelchair-trekking in Yosemite, told The Independent:

“Morgan’s Inspiration Island would have been an absolute dream to me as a kid. Accessibility is so often an add-on or an afterthought, but here they’ve really thought through everything to make the park ‘ultra-accessible’.

“I love the high tech features. I have very little muscle function, and get cold quickly, so the way they can change the water temperature, is ideal. It shows a brilliant level of insight into different individuals’ needs, which is really quite unusual. Normally a waterpark on this scale might offer an accessible changing room and a pool hoist to help you get into the water but very little else. The fact that this waterpark has accessibility built into every feature is truly inspiring - and looks like great fun!

“It’s great to see such inclusive facilities being developed.”

But don’t think of it as a park for disabilities. “Like Morgan’s Wonderland, Morgan’s Inspiration Island is not a special-needs park; it’s a park of inclusion,” Gordon Hartman said in a statement. “Both were designed with special-needs individuals in mind and built for everyone’s enjoyment.”

The icing on the cake? Prices are well below usual theme park rates. Visitors with disabilities get in free, while regular entry costs $17 (£13) for adults, and $11 (£9) for children.

The water park will be open daily until mid-August and then on weekends the rest of the year.

For something closer to home, Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool has won awards for its accessibility.

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