by Shaun Heasley (originally published in Disability Week 15th June 2017)
This past summer a first-of-its-kind splash park designed from the ground up to accommodate people with various special needs made its debut. Morgan’s Inspiration Island opened in San Antonio, TX, on 15th June. The $17 million water park features five play areas with pools, geysers, jets, water cannons and other elements as well as a five-minute jungle-themed riverboat ride with twists and turns. The new park is located adjacent to Morgan’s Wonderland, a fully-accessible 25-acre theme park that opened in 2010. “Like Morgan’s Wonderland, Morgan’s Inspiration Island is not a special-needs park; it’s a park of inclusion,” said Gordon Hartman, the philanthropist behind the parks. “Both were designed with special-needs individuals in mind and built for everyone’s enjoyment.”
Hartman said he and his team worked with water park consultants from Texas, Arizona and Canada as well as doctors, therapists, special educators and families to create the tropical-themed destination. The splash park is completely wheelchair accessible. One area offers the ability to condition water to a warmer temperature for those sensitive to cold. And, parents can obtain waterproof wristbands with tracking technology so that they can easily locate their kids. What’s more, specially-designed waterproof wheelchairs built just for the park will be available for visitors, park officials said. Morgan’s Inspiration Island will be free for individuals with special needs, just like Morgan’s Wonderland, though Hartman recommended making advance reservations online. Hartman was inspired to establish Morgan’s Wonderland by his daughter, Morgan, 23, who has cognitive and physical challenges. Since opening more than seven years ago, the park has greeted over a million visitors from across the United States and around the world, officials said.