Morgan's Wonderland: The Theme Park Designed For People With Disabilities

Valeria Cova

Theme parks have been around the world for a long time, they are a lot of fun, and they are known for being a place where you can create thousands of memories. However, they are not particularly inclusive.

Gordon Hartman Built A Park For His Daughter

Gordon Hartman, a father in Texas, noticed this lack of inclusivity after he wanted his daughter, Morgan, to experience the joys of being in a theme park. Morgan has different physical and cognitive special needs, so she faced a lot of rejection from other children when she was a little girl. Her father noticed that during a vacation, when she was in the pool and any kid wanted to play with her, inspiring him to create a place where she would be comfortable.

It Was An Idea For Four Years

This was in 2006, and by 2010, Morgan's Wonderland was opening its door in Northeast San Antonio. Hartman sold his company, Gordon Hartman Homes, to create and focus on the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation so his dream could come true. He and his wife, Maggie, worked with doctors, therapists, and parents to build the safest facilities. They created the first ultra-accessible park, which people worldwide now visit.

"Where Everyone Can Play!"

Hartman said, "We wanted a theme park where everyone could do everything, where people with and without special needs could play." So they started with 25 attractions, including an adapted carousel for wheelchairs and several playgrounds.

How Much Does It Cost?

The park is entirely free for all people with disabilities, as Hartman didn't want money to be an impediment for anyone to have a fun time. Even though this makes them lose profit, they don't mind because they aim to create a safe place where people can understand disabilities.

Everyone Can Visit

Most of the visitors are people without disabilities who are taking care of their children or family members. Gordon has noticed that once people have visited the park, they start to see disabilities as something different, understanding that there's much more beyond the physical differences between them.

About The Attractions

Among the facilities, you can find a sand area, a picnic place, a train that goes around the park, a fortune wheel, three different food places: Morgan's Munchies, Squad Shoppe, and Little Italy Bistro, and more. Still, the most popular attraction is the carousel. Morgan didn't like the carousel at first, her father explained she didn't understand it, but after some time, she eventually hopped on.

Morgan's Inspiration Land

In 2017, Morgan's Wonderland expanded. They opened a new area, Morgan's Inspiration Land, a waterpark full of waterproof wheelchairs and heated water for people with muscular conditions. Hartman had a special moment in the waterpark; he told how a man approached him and held his hand, "He pointed to his son, who has acute special needs, and started crying. He said he hadn't been able to play in water before," he added.

The Latest Achievements

By 2022 they opened two new facilities: Morgan's Wonderland Camp, an accessible camping program for over five hundred people, and a Multi-Assistance Center, which provides medical assistance to all the visitors who might need dental or therapeutic care.

You Can Work There Too

Most staff members are people with disabilities, but you can volunteer to work there by signing up on their website. You can also contribute and donate money to help the organizations and finance different projects Gordon has created to help people with disabilities

What's Next?

Gordon isn't planning on opening another park. He is happy his mission has worked out and appreciates all the people who enjoy the attractions; he is now focusing on an education finance program for teenagers with disabilities.

Gordon Is An Important Person In Texas

Hartman's hard work has earned him a place in the Texas Business Hall Of Fame and the San Antonio Business Hall. Yet, what he cares the most is about the impact the park has had. He said that even though Morgan isn't aware of her role's importance, he is proud of how it has changed their lives.

What Morgan Thinks About

On their website, they state, "It is Morgan's sincere hope that everyone with a special need – young and older, healthy or ailing, introspective, or outgoing – will be touched extraordinarily by Morgan's Wonderland: a shrine of inclusion, an oasis of friendship, an unforgettable wonderland… Morgan's Wonderland!"

The Impact Morgan Has Made

Morgan, who is now 28 years old, loves going to the park. She spends most of the time in the sand and on the swings but likes to greet all the visitors who ask to take pictures with her. Gordon described, "She doesn't realize how she has dealt with things in life has made her a true inspiration."

The Park Has Earned A Lot Of Recognition

Morgan's Wonderland has earned a lot of prizes since its opening; it even was named one of the World's Greatest Places by TIME magazine in 2018 and hosted the Special Olympics Texas Summer Games in 2022.

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