Inspired by daughter, dad builds water park for people with disabilities

The main goal of Morgan's Inspiration Island: inclusion for those with and without disabilities.

Story highlights

  • The unique San Antonio park opened recently
  • Admission is free for those with disabilities, and they provide complimentary waterproof wheelchairs

(CNN)At Morgan's Inspiration Island water park in San Antonio, visitors don't have to face any wheelchair ramps at one of the park's main attractions: The riverboat adventure.

Instead, the boats rise to meet them, so guests with disabilities can avoid the trouble that often accompanies those with special needs at amusement parks.
    That's the idea behind the world's first ultra-accessible water park, creator Gordon Hartman said. The main goal: Inclusion for those with and without disabilities.
    "Children and adults who have special needs are sometimes left out, not because they want to be but because sometimes things are not always adequate for them to use," Hartman said.
    That's not the case at this $17 million tropical-themed park, which held its grand opening on Saturday.
    There are fast passes for those who have trouble waiting in line, private areas to transfer from one wheelchair to another, waterproof wristbands to help find those who tend to wander and quiet areas for those who may get overwhelmed by crowds.
    The park even has a way to change the water temperature quickly for guests sensitive to cold water.
    Working with the University of Pittsburgh, it has also developed a waterproof wheelchair that uses compressed air instead of batteries. It runs longer and weighs less, and guests with special needs can check them out for free.
    Admission also is free for those with disabilities.
    "It's not about the rides," Hartman said. "It's about the culture and the feeling people have in the park."

    The idea behind it

    Morgan's Inspiration Island sits just next door to Hartman's first endeavor, Morgan's Wonderland. That fully accessible theme park developed from Hartman's experience with his daughter. Morgan, 23, deals with both cognitive and physical challenges.
    Attendance at Morgan's water park is always limited to half of capacity to ensure that no one gets overwhelmed.