In the Interest of Greater Accessibility

We asked Bob McCullough, Morgan’s former Communications Director, about ways in which all waterparks can improve their accessibility, read on to hear what he had to say:

Morgan’s Inspiration Island recently opened in San Antonio next to the unique Morgan’s Wonderland theme park. Both non-profit, ultra-accessible parks were designed with special-needs individuals of all ages in mind and built for everyone’s enjoyment.

To create these parks, Gordon Hartman, founder of The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, brought together teams of passionate people that included doctors, therapists, special-ed teachers, caregivers, and parents of special-needs children to brainstorm what would constitute ultra-accessibility. This means anyone with a physical or cognitive challenge can do just as much and have as much fun as individuals without special needs in an inclusive, safe, barrier-free, and non-judgmental environment.

Some of the adaptations that make Morgan’s Inspiration Island ultra-accessible are:

  • Waterproof wheelchairs – The park collaborated with the Pittsburgh Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) at the University of Pittsburgh to develop the PneuChair™, a revolutionary waterproof wheelchair propelled by compressed air. Guests in expensive battery-powered wheelchairs can’t afford to get them wet, but the PneuChair, and other waterproof wheelchair designs, enable those guests to splash and play with everyone.
  • Wheelchair Valet – To facilitate the transfer of guests from personal to waterproof wheelchairs, Morgan’s Inspiration Island incorporated spacious changing rooms that constitute the Wheelchair Valet. Some rooms are equipped with lifts that can accommodate both children and adults. Also available are adjustable electric changing tables for exact height positioning.
  • Ride re-engineering – The Morgan’s Inspiration Island team worked with the manufacturer (WhiteWater) to provide easier wheelchair access to the River Boat Adventure ride. Previous to Morgan’s Inspiration Island, this ride would accommodate guests in wheelchairs and walkers via a ramp. Thanks to re-engineering specified by and paid for by the design team, the first river boat ride without a ramp is now in service at Morgan’s Inspiration Island. Now guests in wheelchairs can wait in the same line with everyone else and not feel separated. The rampless design also means that guests can board boats from either side of the boat and from anywhere on the platform.
  • Warmed-water splash pad – Rainbow Reef is designed so the water temperature can be raised for the benefit of guests that can’t tolerate regular water temperatures, even in the heat of summer. Certain medical conditions cause muscle pain or contraction when an individual is subjected to non-heated water.
  • Location Station technology – Like Morgan’s Wonderland, RFID coverage encompasses Morgan’s Inspiration Island so guests can interact with technology and parents can easily ascertain the whereabouts of their children and other members of their party at a Location Station or on their smart phone.

More information about Morgan’s Inspiration Island is available at

Hartman says Morgan’s Inspiration Island is willing to share lessons learned with other water parks in the fervent hope additions or improvements will be incorporated to benefit their guests with special needs.

Dawn Kirby