• ADA guidelines and waterparks
• Assist WI, a local asset
Waterparks in the Midwest have been leading the way in creating new, innovative rides and thrill-making entertainment for decades, but that’s not all they are getting recognized for - they are also paving the way to make their waterparks accessible for everyone.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) offers guidelines when it comes to waterpark accessibility, but many are exactly that, guidelines and not regulations. Some items are also subject to financial considerations and, if there are insufficient funds, many parks may have to wait for resources before introducing improvements.
In Wisconsin Dells, WI, “The Waterpark Capital of the World!®,” Tifani Jones, Director of Sales & Services, Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau shares the sentiment that many meeting professionals she works with are not just looking for ADA accessibility, but also making sure the environment is as welcoming as possible. What does this mean?
Often meeting planners are aware of guests who have special physical needs, but other times they have to plan for unexpected needs and not just physical, but cognitive needs. These can relate to everything from sensory sensitivity to memory or confusion impairments and even varying degrees of dementia. Related to this, Kalahari Resorts & Conventions enlisted the resources of a group who provided training and guidance to help staff recognize and help individuals onsite, in the waterpark and throughout the resort.
When it comes to physical disabilities, a local non-profit, Assist WI, founded in 2014 stepped up to the plate and has been a huge resource for making activities as accessible as possible. The group works with the public in general, but have worked with many groups in Wisconsin Dells.
As Bianca Johnson, Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications at the Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau shared, “Will Meissner, who started Assist WI, is very passionate and has taken people to waterparks and kayaking, using a variety of equipment. He has a harness system that he uses to strap someone to his back.”
Nic Huebing, Waterpark Director at Kalahari Resorts & Conventions, works with Assist WI regularly to help their guests with disabilities to ensure everyone has a great experience and can partake in certain activities.
He shares, “All of the pools at Kalahari Resorts are ADA accessible using one or more of the following: ADA chair lifts, handrails, and zero depth entry. If anyone has questions or concerns with certain rides or attractions, we will work with them so that all of our guests can safely enjoy our rides.”
While some of their best and most enticing rides involve climbing stairs, Assist WI comes through again with offering assistance. Huebing notes that they are always available and ready to help.
Assist WI recently celebrated their 3rd Annual Waterpark
Adventure at Kalahari Resort. The event offered a fun and positive experience, providing for over 50 children with disabilities and their families. Meissner speaks passionately about their services, “We are excited to share everything WI Dells has to offer, from going on a water slide to a trail at a state park. We started on the premise that if we could put together equipment to make an activity adaptive and gather some volunteers, we could help uplift people and their families. Many of the volunteers have created long-term relationships with the individuals and families they connect with and we have received lots of support and interaction on
The Waterpark Capital of the World and Assist WI are an inspiration for all resorts, parks, and communities across the nation. Going beyond typical ADA guidelines and seeking the best way to make sure guests with any needs can fully enjoy the fun offered in America’s parks. Assist WI is a shining example of programming that works.
No matter what location or participants varied needs, meeting professionals can take this positive and inspiring group spirit to ensure everyone can enjoy special events!