Bernard Tschumi argues ‘if bodies violate the purity of architectural spaces, one might rightly wonder about the reverse: the violence inflicted by narrow corridors on large crowds, the symbolic or physical violence of buildings on users.’ [Tschumi, 2010]
Adding to the rigidity of standards and the modular man that uses an idealistic human body as a measurement to create a humanistic environment, we disregard the disabled as a section of the society that is not a part of the ‘normal’ end-user group. We hardly envisage them beyond the regulations of wheelchairs as humans who should have an equal right to spaces.
Amusement parks are one such example of a public space that should be designed to be inclusive of the disabled. Care should be taken to provide for independent accessibility and mobility of the disabled inside the amusement parks and the rides to be designed in a manner that enables people with various disabilities to access them. Illustrated below are a few examples of amusement parks inclusive of the disabled and the design strategies adopted by them.
1. Morgan’s Wonderland, Texas
Morgan’s Wonderland in Texas designed by Luna Middleman Architects is a completely wheelchair accessible theme park along with 8000 sq ft of the area allocated for wheelchair sports. It uses various technologies such as the use of a laser to make sure the concrete poured surfaces are leveled and the use of LED lighting for the visually impaired. Along with the above, the amusement park also provides waterproof wheelchairs that can be rented.
Morgan’s Inspiration Island promises to give individuals with physical or cognitive special needs a place where they can splash and play without barriers, [It] is not a special-needs park; it’s a park of inclusion. – Gordon Hartman.
2. Disneyland, Paris, France
Apart from the various shops, restaurants, and toilets which are wheelchair accessible, Disneyland in Paris offers a detailed guide for each kind of disability and the assistance which they provide respectively.
For the various rides that are designed to be accessible for the disabled, separate access is also created to reach the ride giving them a priority. Apart from that special areas for the disabled are also designated for parades, fireworks, and light and sound shows.
The hotels or the stay which are within the Disneyland premises also provide for special rooms for the disabled which have larger bathrooms, handrails and follow the various design guidelines for the disabled.
3. MarineLand — Niagara Falls, Ontario
Marineland is an amusement park as well as a themed zoo in Ontario which has various animal exhibits, amusement rides, and sea animal’s live shows. Care has been taken to design the amusement park to allow for wheelchair users to access the majority of the exhibits commencing from the parking area. Separate parking access has been created for the disabled so that they can enter the park with ease amongst the high footfall. After this, wheelchairs, electric scooters, and service animals can be rented with respect to the handicap to allow them to walk around in the park and view all the exhibits.
4. Holiday World — Santa Claus, Indiana
Holiday World in Indiana organizes an annual ‘Fun Day’ when the park opens up its doors especially for persons with mental and physical disabilities. The park provides various services for the disabled making the various spaces and rides accessible along with specialized spaces that cater to them. Along with enabling spaces like theatres to be accessed by wheelchair enabled, a number of tactile flooring solutions have been used for the visually impaired as well. Apart from that, there is a specialized Calming Room that has been designed within the premise to get a break from the park’s sensory stimulation. Apart from the above-built spaces, the amusement parks allow the disabled to get service dogs which can guide them in traversing independently in the park.
5. Legoland – California
Legoland is a theme park, miniature park, and aquarium in California. Depending on the nature of the disability, most of the rides and access routed in the theme park are designed to be accessible by the disabled. The park provides a detailed access guide and a separate pass to the disabled showing the general rules and restrictions based on the various disabilities. There are ramps and toilets that are designed to be disabled-friendly. Apart from that, there are low barriers at the physical exhibits such that wheelchair users too can view them comfortably. The theme park also has a sea life aquarium which allows for wheelchair users to navigate their way with ease.
From the above examples, we can conclude that there are various design solutions which are available in private as well as public spaces and buildings such as standards for space dimensions for wheelchair users, tactile flooring for the visually impaired, etc. which can be employed as design strategies while designing amusement parks to make them more inclusive especially under the umbrella of accessibility and mobility. Amusement parks are ‘leisure spaces’ one goes to and if the design fails to even allow all strata of the society or the public to enter and access it then it’s clearly unequal.
We as designers of spaces hold the responsibility to bridge this gap which is created between the so-called abled and the disabled by means of design especially in public spaces such as amusement parks. In terms of strategies to be adopted while designing amusement parks, special care should be taken to envisage the design as a continuous flow of movement within the spaces i.e. from the entrance to the existing of the amusement park. The rides should be designed according to the design standards as well as ensure safety for the disabled. Apart from the rides, it’s moreover important to have even ground and tactile and olfactory elements as means of independent wayfinding and access to all the exhibits and spaces. Other amenities such as washrooms, restaurants, theatres and accommodations within the park too should be designed to give special emphasis to the needs of various kinds of mental and physical disabilities; not just limited to wheelchair users.