May 24, 2017 - Failing To Make A Splash: Water Parks and the Handicapped (RD Sussman-Dewberry)
As we enter the summer season many of us are going to be spending time in our local water parks. Some of us will even be going to check out the latest water theme park in Orlando.
Unfortunately water parks are somehow still inaccessible to a large number of our population and RD has some thoughts on this.
Written by RD Sussman-Dewberry
In the next few days, we will be flooded with a barrage of pictures coming from the new Volcano Bay Water Park in Orlando, and major water parks all over the country come to life & show off their latest in slides & such. And at the same time, I count how many I see that are Handicapped INaccesible. The easily not-able to be climbed stairways to the key attractions at a park, the wonderfully well not-designed for handicapped guests rapids rides, the beautifully UN-able to be ridden slide towers for guests with any sort of mobility issue.
And I as I look at all these colorful non-ridable tubes going up everywhere, I have to think this: Why are the water parks getting away with this bullshit? How many of them actually care about the guests with mobility issues? And how many of them are willing to install attractions to fit the needs and wants of 15% of the people who are mobility impaired.
Now I know you're thinking: 15% of the population? Screw them. They're not all that important; they can go in the lazy river or in the wave pool. They don't need to ride the waterslides. They don't need those - they can be happy in the wet places that lazily go around in circles. We don't need them clogging up the slides with accessibility issues. We don't want to wait for them to take forever to get into a waterslide, and then to egress the same one at the bottom.
And I say it's time for a major change.
15% of the population has some form of mobility issue that prevents them from being able to easily walk up stairs, or to be able to egress from a slide bay. I'm one of them. For me, going up a slide tower can take upwards of 30 minutes depending on how tall the tower is, and then getting out at the base can be nearly as difficult (I have to 'roll' out of a raft for example, landing face down in the water). At the same time, parks don't realize that they are potentially missing out on 15% of the population's MONEY.
Parks could install systems for these crowds - but are afraid to do so on two levels: The first, the cost of installing hydrovators (basically elevators with grid-floors for water slide towers that are designed to be safe for water parks) and hydrolators (Water slides with conveyor-belt lifts to the top, as seen in a very few parks) is expensive, and they require maintenance. The second is the modification of slides to handle a handicapped egress point (Lower sides on a boat entry - or a transfer sling for chair-bound guests) would require them to spend money to refit for these guests. Both are not inexpensive - at all. But let's look at the longer term benefits of a park.
If a park were to add these benefits, they could market themselves as the first handicapped-accessible water park where ALL guests are welcome. They could add in their own worlds of great benefit if they choose. And they could also allow for more guests to come in - more tickets sold - and more people to visit. It would allow for a previously unwelcome guest demographic to enter water parks, and to be treated as equals with others - something that the handicapped population enjoy - and respect. And it would be a free bundle of publicity that no money could buy: Being able to market it to the media. And the media would be there to cover it all over the country: A water park for all guests to enjoy.
I do go to water parks myself when I can - but I must be very careful where I choose to go with, and with whom I travel to them with. They must know how to get me into/out of certain attractions - and are very capable of doing so. Otherwise, a water park day for me would be floating around in a lazy river, wanting to go on a water slide- but being told I am unable to - or cannot - due to the stairs involved.
It is time for a change. And a big one. It is time for water parks to become handicapped friendly - instead of handicapped hostile.
5/24/2017 07:47:02 pm
The stairs thing I agree with. However, I really don't think slides or tubes are safe for someone who cannot walk. I would be afraid of the risk to them, and to others put in the position of helping them, in the case of an accident. To say nothing of the increased risk of injury to them due to their physical shape. Just like Coasters have very specific restrictions on physical abilities in order to be able to ride, (for example, people with leg amputation can not ride Tatsu) water attractions obvious need restrictions even more. The liability issues are likely the big hold up on water parks being more handicapped accessible. But again, the parks do need to address the stairs being prohibitive to so many, not even necessarily just legally handicapped people.
I think certain slides would be fine for someone who cannot walk or has restricted use of their legs. The high speed ones could be problematic since you need to be able to keep your legs in a certain position, but the regular body slides would probably be fine. Same with tube slides, as your legs are usually not as important to the experience as you are using your hands to hold on.
5/25/2017 10:14:34 am
Don't think everybody should be able to ride everything, nor should they be. As was said above, some rides have physical limitations in addition to their basic "accessibility" issues due to their extreme nature or safety mechanisms.
7/9/2017 02:54:53 pm
Again, thank you for making/helping me see though someone (your) eyes. Just recently a water park in Texas (?) opened that they claimed to full fully accessible. It wasn't clear if they have slides like at SFMM:HH. But they build and operate with the idea of accessibility, so it can be done. This shows, one step, one ramp, one handrail, one lift, we will all move to getting on the weggie slide of doom.
8/5/2021 07:44:33 am
I think slides should have a handicap egress point. I don't see how allowing handicapped people to ride slides would make them less fun. Everyone should be allowed to enjoy amusement parks despite their physical appearance or handicaps.
3/31/2022 05:30:13 am
My "handicap" is my age. I don't have the energy to climb that tower of stairs anymore. I have to wait while my grandkids have all the fun.
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