From the Editor’s Desk: Amusement Park for People with Disabilities

 

Located in San Antonio, Texas, Morgan’s Wonderland is the first of its kind — the first and only amusement park for children and adults with disabilities. Named after founder Gordon Hartman’s daughter (who has an intellectual disability), Morgan’s Wonderland aims to offer everything any guest might enjoy at a theme park, while also appealing to non-disabled visitors.
The motto of Morgan’s Wonderland is “Where Everyone Can Play.” Inclusion plays an important role. Hartman can remember, during a family trip a few years ago, seeing his daughter Morgan wanting to play with three kids tossing a ball in a pool, but she couldn’t interact. The kids, just as unsure how to interact with Morgan, stopped playing.

Morgan’s Wonderland is a 25-acre park that offers specific accommodations for people with physical or mental disabilities, down to jungle gyms wide enough to fit two wheelchairs side-by-side, a “Sensory Village” that’s an indoor mall of touch-and-hear activities, and daily attendance limits, so the park never gets too loud or lines too long. The park has 20 attractions, from active (Butterfly Playground) to easygoing (a train circling a mile-long loop through the park and around a lake). The park also features an ideal place for autistic children – the Sitting Garden.

Park admission is free for people with disabilities, and adults accompanying them pay $10. Guests are given an electronic wristband that allows families and caregivers to keep tabs on their group in the park, and scanning the wristbands on some rides emails a free photo back home. Three out of every four visitors do not have disabilities.

Some of Morgan’s Wonderland Attractions:

  • Sensory Village is a mechanic’s shop with tools mounted on a low table. A light touch of the drill triggers the crank-like sound of a bolt driving flush into an engine block. Next door is a pretend supermarket with plastic lobsters, ears of corn, and cans of tuna, and cashiers who always hand back the right amount of invisible change.
  • Most interactive is a low-lit space with a touch-sensitive floor, giving the illusion of walking across a pond as the water ripples and colors burst with every step. White canvases on the walls, meanwhile, transform into butterflies chasing a shadow anytime someone steps in front of the projector.
  • Sprouting from the sandboxes are “diggers” — think shovels and rakes — that can be operated sitting down from a wheelchair. Another nearby sandbox is elevated 4 ½ feet, next to a musical garden of giant xylophones and chimes. The chariots on the carousel are reserved for wheelchairs, and many of the horses are fitted with high back cushions for children who need the support.

To learn more about Morgan’s Wonderland Amusement Park, go to: http://www.morganswonderland.com/.

Send your questions and comments to Jenny Carlton, NCPAD News Editor, at jcarlto1@uic.edu.  NCPAD is the :National Center on Physical Activity and Disability.  It is a non-profit group whose goal is to serve as an information center for those concerned about physical activity and disability.  It is supported in part by a grant from the Center for Disease Control and Preventon (CDC).  It is affiliated with the University of Illinois at Chicago.  The United States Sports Academy supports opportunities for physical activity and play for everyone regardless of their abilities.  For more information on Academy programs go to http://ussa.edu.

 

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