Father builds £26 million accessible theme park for his disabled daughter

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A father gave up his career to build a £26 million accessible theme park after he realised there was nowhere for his disabled daughter to play.

Gordon Hartman gave up his job as a property developer to set up two parks in Texas catering for disabled people or people with learning difficulties.

He decided to build the park after his daughter, Morgan, was ignored by children when they visited a swimming pool. 

Mr Hartman believed that the children did not know how to react to Morgan, who was 12 at the time but has the cognitive understanding of a five-year-old and a form of autism.

Morgan’s Wonderland: The park is aimed at catering for children with disabilities

He and his wife Maggie tried to find somewhere they could take their daughter where she would feel comfortable but realised a specific place for disabled children did not exist.

So, in 2007, he sold his businesses and set up The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation – a non-profit organisation that seeks to help people with disabilities. 

Then he began the process of building the “world’s first ultra-accessible theme park”.

Accessible: A third of the staff are disabled

He told the BBC: “We wanted a theme park where everyone could do everything, where people with and without special needs could play.”

The Texas-based park was named Morgan’s Wonderland and opened in 2010. 

It boasts fully accessible rides and has been visited by over a million people from countries all around the world. 

Island: A waterpark was opened next door this year

A third of the staff that work at the park are disabled and entry is free for anyone with a condition.

Mr Hartman said: “I realised Morgan was one of the lucky ones because she had many of the things she needed. I didn’t want cost to be a barrier for others with special needs.

“We open every year knowing we’re going to lose over $1m (£750,000) and we need to recover that through fundraising and partners.”

Mr Hartman extended the theme park this year by adding Morgan’s Inspiration Island – a waterpark next door with warm water to help people with muscular problems and waterproof motorised wheelchairs.

“Yesterday a man came up to me at Inspiration Island and just held my hand,” Mr Hartman said.

“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.”

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