Accessing Theme & Amusement Parks

By Frei, C. E.; Madley, Rebecca H. | The Exceptional Parent, April 1999 | Go to article overview

Accessing Theme & Amusement Parks


Frei, C. E., Madley, Rebecca H., The Exceptional Parent


Last month, we looked at how to get the most out of your visit to an amusement or theme park. Now, pull down your safety bar and prepare for a memorable ride experience, as we take you through the accessibility of theme and amusement parks. Our first stop will examine those parks that go to great lengths to make themselves accessible for the full enjoyment of patrons who have disabilities. Then we will take you to those parks which are making additions and changes to accommodate the special needs community.

-- the Editors

Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio, holds a Deaf Awareness Day once a year, with over 100 American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters located throughout the park. This is especially effective in the park's theaters because interpreters are provided to sign the shows. "The interpreters come in that day and donate their services," states Sydney Purvis, communications manager of Six Flags. "We just felt since we are known for our terrific live entertainment, we wanted to make it more enjoyable for everyone, and this was one way to make it accessible for the hearing impaired."

Holiday World and Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana also strives to be a friend to the special needs community. The park provides its guests who have disabilities with "Special Friends Days" and a "Play Day."

According to Will Koch, president and general manager of the park, "Special Friends Days" is "an opportunity for folks who have special needs to enjoy the park at a half-price admission rate for that day." In fact, according to Pam Kirk of Southwestern Indiana's Easter Seal's Society (which is affiliated with the Rehabilitation Center in Evansville, Indiana), the park dedicates several days to individuals of all ages who have special needs. The Rehab Center and Easter Seals join forces each summer to sponsor an event called "Play Day," where people from special area schools come to spend the day. All proceeds go to Easter Seals. Pam says, "The staff at the park look forward to this day just as much as the kids do."

In addition, the Rehabilitation Center send representatives to the park to evaluate accessibility They have helped Will and his staff form an accessibility guide for visitors. South-western Indiana Girl Scout troop leader, Suzi Fugate takes her Girl Scout troop of 50 differently-abled girls and their families, to the park every year. She notes, "If it wasn't accessible we wouldn't even consider going because it is our policy to include everyone in an activity."

Cedar Point located in Sandusky, Ohio, has also climbed aboard the accessibility and integration train. Annually the park sponsors a day for The Arc of Ohio, offering complimentary admission for those guests who are registered with The Arc. Gary Tonks of The Arc of Ohio says, "They really stand out for their drive to make their park accessible to anyone and everyone."

Working together

Astroland, located in Brooklyn, New York, extends an extra welcome to the special needs population through the efforts of the Community Mayors of New York. This nonprofit association of volunteers holds special events during the year to provide recreational therapy for children and young adults who have mental and physical challenges. In June 1998, the Community Mayors took a group of about 3,000 to Astroland with the help of approximately 300 volunteers from New York's municipal services. "They are really dedicated to giving the kids a good time," explains Joe Sturtz, Community Mayor of East Flatbush, New York.

Midway Park, in Maple Springs, New York, works with Give Kids the World (GKTW), a wish-granting organization for children who have life-threatening illnesses and disabilities. The park provides GKTW children with free admission for the day, and the staff makes sure their special events are accessible. At their famous laser light show, for example, a prime seating area is provided. …

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