“Call her a catalyst, a spark, an inspiration. Morgan Hartman doesn’t realize it, but her ability to smile through physical and cognitive challenges spurred her parents – Gordon and Maggie Hartman – to do things never before accomplished for individuals with special needs and their families.”
As parents to a disabled child, Gordon and Maggie, saw firsthand, what their daughter had to go through growing up. They built Morgan’s Wonderland as a place where everyone can come together, not just for fun, but also to instigate better understanding among peers for members with special needs.
The celebrated amusement park, opened on April 10, 2010, has always offered free access to all disabled visitors, no questions asked. The completely wheelchair-accessible park features more than 25 elements including rides, playgrounds and other colorful attractions.
The team has taken their wonderful initiative a step further recently with the opening of the Morgan’s Inspiration Island – the world’s first accessible waterpark. Water parks are notoriously inaccessible for the disabled, owing to health hazards and just the inherent nature of the activities. But Morgan’s Inspiration Island aims to change all that.
The efficiently designed $17m theme park has been built in collaboration with doctors, parents, teachers, special needs therapists, and caregivers – resulting in the development of exciting features that make getting around the park effortless and safe.
PneuChairs, air-powered, waterproof wheelchairs, developed along with the University of Pittsburgh, are rented out for free to visitors, ensuring that children with special needs can get around easily, without having to worry about ruining their own wheelchairs in the water. Additionally, parents are also equipped with trackers connected to traceable bracelets to help find their children at the park, negating the need to constantly have to keep an eye out for their kids.
Overlooking the Wonderland’s fishing lake, the Inspiration Island 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”.
Special needs access is almost always conceived of as an add-on or an accessory, an afterthought. It’s refreshing to see an organization putting in the effort to build an entire structure centering around people with disabilities making the place ultra-accessible for people from all walks of life.
Apart from the obvious technological features that make the park accessible, Morgan’s also sports other thoughtful characteristics revealed upon closer inspection. One third of the employees at the park have special needs and are stationed throughout the play areas to help answer questions and help guests feel more comfortable. Additionally, park attendance is always limited to half of capacity to ensure that no one gets overwhelmed.
The franchise is a non-profit initiative, with ticket prices well below usual theme park rates, going on to show how much heart has truly gone into developing the initiative.
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.”