Featured Guest: Susan Hawkins, “Wild, Wonderful, Wheelchair-Accessible Texas!”
By: Susan Hawkins, Guest Contributor*
As the biggest state in the contiguous 48, Texas has a lot going on and vast expanses where anything and everything happens. For people with disabilities who use wheelchairs or mobility scooters to get around, those wide-open spaces can be daunting—and prohibitive—if they’re not handicap-accessible. Sometimes that means missing out on the fun. Leave it to Texas to do the right thing!
Texans in wheelchairs and the many tourists with disabilities who visit the Lone Star state every year have access to a remarkable number of attractions that welcome guests on wheels. From the prevalence of handicap-accessible van parking to the wonders within, these spectacular locales offer entertainment for everyone.
At the top of our list—a theme park designed with access in mind!
Morgan’s Wonderland, San Antonio
Morgan’s Wonderland promotes itself as “a special place for special friends.” In fact, it’s the only large-scale theme park in the world dedicated to those with special needs and their families. The park is “ultra-accessible” and designed “expressly” for the people with disabilities, their family and friends. There’s an accessible carousel, play areas that include wheelchair swings, an amphitheater, off-road race track, a marina for boat rides, a train with wheelchair-accessible cars and the ever-popular more.
The best part? Every special-needs child or adult visitor is admitted completely free of charge, and the entry fee for family and friends is extremely low.
Six Flags Fiesta, San Antonio
Six Flags Fiesta Texas is “one of the most ADA-accessible theme parks in the nation.” Before you go, check out the Guide to Rides and Attractions on their web site. You’ll be amazed at the number of rides that are wheelchair-accessible, but you will have to transfer from the wheelchair to the rides, like…
The Superman Krypton Coaster! Zoom Jets and Splish Splash Zone for kids! A powered car ride called Motorama! The Power Surge flume ride! Scream is a free-fall tower! Take a spin on the Ferris Wheel or scramble around on the Waverunner!
Johnson Space Center, Houston
The handicap-accessible Space Center promises an exciting look at “the final frontier”—from its inspiring history and present endeavors to its thrilling future. This is the place for “an out-of-this-world journey through human adventures into space.”
You’ll see astronauts train for missions, touch a real moon rock, land a shuttle and get a peek behind the scenes at NASA. Don’t touch anything in Mission Control!
Sea World, San Antonio
Clearly, San Antonio is an outstanding hub of wheelchair-accessible activity! Prepare to get wet! Enjoy super rides like “Shamu Express” (a roller coaster for kids) and “Journey to Atlantis” (a roller coaster for courageous adults), fabulous shows like Sesame Street presents “Lights! Camera! Imagination!” in 4-D, and take in exhibits that include “Penguin Encounter” and “Sharks and Coral Reef”. You might want to check out some of Sea World’s exclusive park experiences, too.
River Walk, San Antonio
You’ll be rollin’ on the river at this popular and accessible attraction. Meandering along the San Antonio River is River Walk—the #1 tourist attraction in Texas! Located a storey beneath about five miles of downtown San Antonio, River Walk is brimming with shops, bars, restaurants for both fine and casual dining, hotels, museums and special events like arts-and-crafts shows and canoe races on the river.
River Walk is 75% accessible, and there are many places a person with a disability can reach it. As many as ten strategically located accessible elevators go directly to River Walk, and seven ramps lead from street level to the Walk. An accessible River Walk map illustrating the path-of-travel for visitors in wheelchairs is available through San Antonio’s Disability Access Office/planning.
Sporting Events and Concerts
All sporting venues in Texas are also home to concerts and special presentations from time to time, and wheelchair accessibility holds true for any event. Texas is so big, it has two NFL football teams and two Major League Baseball teams! The Dallas Cowboy’s Stadium is fully wheelchair accessible inside and out. Reliant Stadium, gridiron for the Houston Texans, welcomes guests with disabilities for all events and offers accessible seating, companion restrooms, 34” counters at concessions and retail merchandising areas, and that’s just the beginning!
There are two major league baseball teams in Texas. The Texas Rangers’ Ballpark in Arlington has a wide range of wheelchair-accessible sections available, in just about every section in the park. Minute Maid Park, where the Houston Astros run the bases, meets and exceeds all service and structural requirements stipulated by the ADA, and “wheelchair seating for fans with mobility concerns is available throughout the park from virtually all vantage points.”
Texas has three NBA teams—the San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets. The AT&T Center in San Antonio has accessible seating and companion seating on all levels, along with accessible public restrooms, water fountains and concession stands. The Dallas Mavericks (and the NHL’s Dallas Stars) play at the American Airlines Center, which offers similar reception to its guests with disabilities, including accessible restaurants and escorts to any location. So does the Toyota Center in Houston, home of the Houston Rockets.
If you’re into Major League Soccer, the Houston Dynamos play at the equally accessible BBVA Compass Stadium. Though specifics may vary slightly from venue to venue, you can count on all these event facilities to make your attendance as pleasant as possible.
The Bob Bullock State History Museum in Austin tells the story of Texas with three floors of exhibits, houses an IMAX theater and is fully wheelchair accessible.
If you’re an art connoisseur, stop by the Dallas Museum of Art. All of the Museum’s public galleries are accessible to wheelchair users and visitors who can’t use stairs. The facility will even provide wheelchairs on a first-come, first-served basis, and, of course, the restrooms are ADA-compliant.
National Parks, State Parks, Historic Sites and Beaches
Wheelchair users who love the great outdoors will definitely not be disappointed in Texas! San Antonio Missions Historical Park preserves four of the five Spanish frontier missions in San Antonio. The park offers several activities for people with disabilities. If you really want to explore some remote Texas country, Big Bend National Park is 300 miles from El Paso, and that’s the closest big city to the park! The Rio Grande runs along the park, which has accessible visitor centers and campgrounds for sleeping in the (really!) great outdoors!
As you can imagine, the spacious state of Texas has a superabundance of state parks and historic sites. Though some parts of these destinations aren’t accessible by wheelchair, there’s still plenty—fishing piers, boardwalks, paved trails—to give you something to write home about. Click here for a complete guide to wheelchair accessibility in Texas state parks and historic sites.
A beach is in reach, too! The Texas Gulf Coast is dotted with handicap-accessible hotels. You might even want to go a step further and rent an accessible condo for a weekend or a week. Imagine having ground-floor access right on the beach! Click here to sea more than 50 vacation rentals you’re shore to find inviting!
“Don’t Mess With Texas”, but, if you’re a wheelchair user, don’t miss out on the opportunity to “Mess Around in Texas!” There’s BIG fun waiting there for you!
*About Susan Hawkins: Susan Hawkins is a writer for AMSVans.com, which sells wheelchair vans nationwide with a guaranteed low price on all newly converted AMS-brand wheelchair van models. AMSvans.com also accepts trades, rents and buys vans at competitive prices. Find adaptive mobility equipment solutions and more than 150 handicap vans for sale online at http://www.amsvans.com.
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