As seen in the news: an amusement park for PWD

Soooo…there’s a news aggregator I like to follow. Its identity isn’t critical for this discussion, except to note that I found a link to an interesting story there. Apparently, there’s a man in Texas who built an amusement park for PWD, inspired by watching his daughter’s problems enjoying certain types of creative play.

I’ll be honest with you – I don’t know what to make of this.

Emotional response 1: This is great!
Let’s face it – Disney fan that she may sometimes be, Lily didn’t have the best time when we took her to Disneyland. The lines were horrible, and once we were told that she didn’t have to wait in line, the crowds remained difficult. It wasn’t comfortable for us, either, dealing with her in a stroller (I remember her not having her own wheelchair at that point).

Most places are hard to navigate with a rambunctious kid who has poor language skills and weak motor skills. Cafeteria seating is crowded and chairs are everywhere. Bathrooms tend not to be…great, even when they have “accessible” stalls. (Wait, the door opens the wrong way? Or slams shut on you as you try to enter?) Lily’s small, so safety bars aren’t the best fit for her, and she’s too short to ride on some rides that I know she’d love. (She’s much more of a speed demon than I am.)

Emotional response 2: This is not cool!
I’m all about mainstreaming, I guess. I believe that what I have, Lily should have. If she wants to see Mickey Mouse, let her see Mickey Mouse! Or, if she and Dad are going to torture Mom and me on the Teacups, let them have their fun. (Well, sort of. I wasn’t thrilled with it, but Lily was laughing really hard.) And you know what? Disney did make it easier than we expected for us – like I implied above, we had no idea that Lily didn’t have to wait in line until we’d been in the park and stood in line for one ride, at which point an employee told us about their accomodations. Or the help we got when we went on the Star Tours ride. Lily really isn’t a Star Wars fan, but was game enough to let us tell her it was *like* Star Trek, and Dad loves the ride – me, too – so Mom let us choose it. If you’ve been on that ride, you know that part of the line involves narrow ramps that are suspended. Total no go for the stroller. Well, it turns out that there’s an elevator that you can reach from a door in the side of the building. A staffer saw us, led us over, helped us get to the ride entrance, and let us in as early as possible to get Lily strapped in before the rest of the crowd made that hard.

I also feel like it’s good for Lily to interact with people who are not like her (and I believe it’s extremely good for them to interact with her). Much as I love the idea of a place where my sister won’t be stared at or ridiculed, I can’t quite shake the feeling that it’s an isolated place.

Also, I have hesitations about tracking bracelets, even though they figure prominently (and not scarily) in a favorite novel of mine, The Free Lunch, by Spider Robinson. (Link goes to page.) I chalk this one up to my own irrationality. 😉

Overall, then…
This is a actually an internal tension I feel about activism in a lot of areas. I went to a college that was dedicated to education for women, and is (at the undergraduate level) exclusively (biologically) female. It wasn’t why I chose to attend, but I think it benefitted me; I’m not sure I would have become the scientist I am if I hadn’t had certain experiences there. I feel like there’s still enough injustice that women face just for being women that institutions like my alma mater need to exist. Ditto my identifying as a woman of color – the feeling I have that tribal colleges or historically black colleges need to exist, that courses on Latino history need to be taught? It conflicts with my feeling that we need to be in a place where we’re all learning together, learning each other’s experiences and lives and histories together.

Also, I’d love to make sure that public spaces are accessible, period. If it’s easy for Lily, it’s easy for me, or you, or just about anyone. Why does it take a mobility impairment, claustrophobia, visual impairment, or some other issue to make people realize that spaces are not functional or efficient, even for typical folks?

Thus, I guess I feel like Morgan’s Wonderland needs to exist, because for damned sure PWD get othered enough to merit a safe space that lets them be themselves. I just fiercely want to live in a world where such safe spaces aren’t needed, because everywhere is safe. And I don’t know the best way to achieve that goal.


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