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World’s First Ultra-Accessible Theme Park in Texas Expands to Adaptive Salon and Hotel

April 2, 2024
Source: Texas Public Radio

When visitors enter Morgan’s Wonderland, it looks like any other theme park. There’s a rollercoaster, a zip line, a Ferris wheel, and the smell of fresh popcorn. But what it won’t have are long lines or loud noises. Plus, it’s free for people with a disability.

All the rides are equipped with wheelchair access, like the new zip line that was recently installed. It glides over a catch and release fishing lake with a view of the park’s gardens and playgrounds.

“It’s just simply mind blowing to know that there’s a place like this where we can enjoy the things that most people — typical people — are afforded to them across the world and around the country. And we have that here in San Antonio for our special needs children and families,” said Victoria Garcia-Ammann, who [is] waiting to get on a ride with her daughter, Emily.

Her child lives with severe epilepsy and a rare genetic birth condition of the brain that causes mobility issues and hinders her from verbal communication.

“I think the excitement of just simply being able to have my daughter accomplish something that she would ordinarily never be able to do without the help of the modifications to make something like this as possible. It’s truly just mind blowing,” Garcia-Ammann said.

Meaghan Kirchner, who brings her children to Morgan’s regularly, agreed. She has three children who all have a sensory processing disorder and are on the autism spectrum.

“It takes us several days after SeaWorld to actually recover from going — whereas I feel like Morgan’s Wonderland, we’ve come multiple times in a week because it’s just such an appropriate level for my kids to be able to access all the different activities without it being overstimulated,” she explained.

Morgan’s Wonderland has seen close to 4 million visitors from every state in the U.S. and 120 countries since it first opened in 2010.

Since then, it has completed a $6 million renovation and added a fully inclusive sports field, community center, and most recently, a salon.

Morgan’s Salon features wheelchair accessible stations for hair and nail services. The staff are trained to accommodate people like Miranda Raab, who has cerebral palsy.

“I’m able to just roll my chair up to this space right here that is open. And I was just able to get my haircut like everyone else,” she said. “It’s way more relaxing than trying to go to a regular salon, because I feel like, sometimes, they’re anxious.”

Raab said this was the first time in her life she’s been able to enjoy getting a haircut.

Morgan’s Wonderland was founded by former San Antonio home builder Gordon Hartman. The park is named after his daughter, Morgan, who has a rare genetic disease that causes cognitive issues, which makes is very difficult for her to communicate.

The inspiration for the park came from a family vacation when Morgan wanted to play with some kids in a pool.

“And she couldn’t communicate with them and [say], ‘hey, guys, can I play?’ Instead, she hit the ball. That was her way to try to communicate,” Hartman said.

The kids grabbed the ball and left the pool. “And it really hit me because, there I was watching as a father, recognizing that Morgan just wanted to play, just to be involved, be included,” he said.

Hartman’s next project is an ultra-accessible hotel.

“Fifteen percent of the population has some form of special need, and a third of that 15% requires assistance every day to get through their day — Morgan being one of them,” he explained.

Hartman acknowledged it will be a tall order to replicate this around the country, so Morgan’s is also creating a training program to teach corporate leaders how to make their businesses more accessible.

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