I just landed back in San Diego after being in San Antonio, Texas for the inaugural YMCA Inclusion Summit this week. The Summit was held at Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first amusement park designed for people of all abilities, and a place I have wanted to visit since it opened in 2010. What an honor to give the keynote address at Morgan’s Wonderland! If you don’t know about this park, I encourage you to watch this video, produced by the New York Times, about the opening of the water park at Morgan’s Wonderland. Gordon Hartman, the visionary founder of the park, told me that “the word can’t is not allowed” at Morgan’s Wonderland. So, how do kids who use motorized wheelchairs enjoy a water park? Since there is no “can’t” they designed waterproof wheelchairs for kids to use at the park. Gordon tells everyone that Morgan’s is “a park for inclusion, not a special needs park.” They walk the talk of inclusion. Thirty percent of their staff team are adults with disabilities. There is an entertainment division where the performers include individuals with and without disabilities as performers and puppeteers. Admission is free for kids with disabilities because Gordon did not want cost to keep a family from coming to the park every single day if they wanted to, knowing how limited play opportunities like this are for many families.
It was a thrill to see YMCAs from all over the country who are eager to develop their inclusive practices. Everyone was inspired by the “ultra-accessibility” of Morgan’s Wonderland and eager to take what they learned back to their community. I also got to see our own Kat King give some excellent advice and resources as part of a very informative panel presentation.
In other news, I’d like to recognize and thank our outstanding summer intern in our Washington, DC office, Jonathan Sommerness (University of Wisconsin, Madison). Jonathan worked on data and policy legislation tracking projects for us and helped develop some insights that will inform our new Inclusive Schools effort. Jonathan is pictured here (on the left) with our friend Cara Liebowitz from the National Council on Independent Living, and Jeremy, our DC Program Manager. Thank you, Jonathan!
Take good care, and we’ll reconvene next Friday.