Morgan's Wonderland: Inclusive Recreation and Leisure Facilities for Individuals with Disabilities
Mendez-Hodgkinson, Nancy, Cervantes, Carlost, Palaestra
Americans with disabilities represent a large group of people in our society. Many do not take an active part in recreation because a number of barriers. Lack of accessible or inclusive recreational settings present the greatest challenges. The purpose of this article is to discuss the need for inclusive recreation and the possible responses from those with disabilities when accessible facilities are provided. Discussion is provided about Morgan's Wonderland, the first specially designed theme park for individuals with disabilities.
Morgan's Wonderland: Inclusive Recreation and Leisure Facilities for People with Disabilities
There are approximately 54.3 million individuals with disabilities in the United States according to the United States (US) Census Bureau (Brault, 2008). Of these, 34 million have a disability requiring mobility assistance, such as a wheelchair or braces. This large portion of the American population is expected to grow as the population ages, number of veterans with war-related acquired disabilities and increases and advances in the medical field extending life expectancy.
Individuals with disabilities have the same basic need for recreation and leisure as individuals without disabilities (Rimmer & Braddock, 2002; van der Ploeg, van der Beek, van der Woude, & van Mechelen, 2004). Physical activity (including recreation) has a number of benefits for adults and children. In adults, physical activity can help to control weight, reduce risk for chronic disease, strengthening bones and muscles, improved mental health and overall quality of life (United States Department of Health & Human Services [HHS], 2008). In children, physical activity may help to reduce adiposity, reduce anxiety and depression, improve self-concept and academic performance, and improve bone health and muscular strength, among others (Strong et al., 2005). Although the benefits derived from regular physical activity are for all, access to physical activity settings, including recreational facilities may not (King et al., 2003; Rimmer, 2005). While much legislation on disability in the U.S. has promoted a shift from equity to inclusion of individuals with disabilities in all settings of public access (Fitzgerald, 2007), a minimal number of individuals with disabilities have taken initiative to take part in recreation and leisure activities (including physical activity) because of perceived and actual barriers to participation (Rimmer, Riley, Wang, Rauworth, & Jurkowski, 2004; Rimmer & Rowland, 2008a, 2008b). For example, among the most common barriers and facilitators to physical activity in individuals with disabilities are: the built and natural environment (i.e., accessibility), cost, and transportation (Rimmer et al., 2004; Rimmer, Hsieh, Graham, Gerber & Gray-Stanley, 2010). In addition, not knowing how to or where to exercise are among the most common personal barriers among those with disabilities (Rimmer et al., 2010). Among these barriers, the built environment or the need for accessible recreation and leisure facilities may present a greater challenge to recreation and leisure participation among individuals with disabilities (Rimmer, 2005; Rimmer, Riley, Wang, & Rauworth, 2005). The design and implementation of a recreation and leisure facility supporting comprehensive inclusion has to accommodate the needs of those with disabilities as well as to consider all facets of the existing barriers to successful and joyful recreation (North Carolina Office on Disability and Health, 2008; Rimmer, 2006).
The purpose of this article is to present a discussion on the need for inclusive and accessible recreation for individuals with disabilities. An example of a highly accessible facility known as Morgan's Wonderland is presented. Understanding the requirements in order to facilitate participation in recreation and leisure activities, by individuals with disabilities, will lead to increased participation, improved mental and physical health, and a change in the perception of participation barriers. …