A few summers ago, my friend and I would frequently go to a waterpark one town over from us. I have to give my friend major credit here, because they were very good about watching out for me as we navigated around the park and rode all the different rides. My glasses were never lost or broken, no one got injured, and we managed to always have a lot of fun. Here are my tips for going to waterparks with vision impairment and learning to navigate the park.
Always wear a life jacket
The water park near us offers free life jackets for all guests, requiring them for children 8 and under. No matter how old I was, I always wore a life jacket, as I am not a particularly strong swimmer. It also helped me bump into things less often.
If possible, stay in shallow water
It’s easy to get separated in deep water. Because of this, my friend and I would try to stay in the shallow end of pools when possible. One downside to this is that people frequently run into us and there may be more obstacles, such as toys and small children, so being alert is very important.
Have special container for glasses
I bought a sports pocket for my glasses at a sporting goods store that had a clip on it and zipped shut, to prevent my glasses from getting wet. My friend would put the glasses in a pocket and we never had any issues with them falling out or going missing. We actually got a waterproof pouch designed for a phone, and while water occasionally got inside, it was perfect for glasses.
Alert ride attendants, if needed, about low vision
I often needed assistance boarding the rides, whether I was wearing my glasses or not, so we would alert ride attendants if we needed additional assistance. I sometimes would have problems getting into rafts or navigating out of the pool, and ride attendants were always more than happy to assist with this.
Avoid rides that require head-first positioning
Even though I wouldn’t wear my glasses, we still avoided rides that required head first positioning or very sharp drops to prevent injury. Since I have poor reflexes, these rides were not a good fit for me. I suggest reading all safety information when deciding on what ride will be a good fit for you.
Have a human guide
My friend is an awesome human guide and frequently helped me navigate through our high school hallways and other locations. I’ve actually talked about them guiding me frequently in posts, and what a wonderful job they had done.
Wear goggles for chlorine sensitivity
My eyes get red from chlorine very quickly. Wearing goggles helps to keep my eyes from feeling like they are burning. Because of how thick my glasses are, I do not use prescription goggles, but those are an option for people with milder prescriptions.
Ride types we enjoyed
My friend and I enjoyed going on the following types of rides:
- The shallow end of the wave pool
- The lazy river
- Inflatable float rides with various drop sizes
When I was younger, I also enjoyed the playground areas at the parks, because I was able to wear my glasses and navigate easily.
Rides we avoided
We avoided rides with these characteristics:
- Head-first positioning
- Rapids-style rides
- Steep slides
- Tornado rides
- Any ride where there was a higher risk of the raft tipping over or us getting separated
If you get separated
Lucky for us, my friend and I only got separated once while we were in the water. Normally, I would hold onto their hand when we were on rides.
When we did get separated, we were in the lazy river. I pulled to the side of the pool and started asking for a lifeguard, explaining I had been separated from my friend and that I would have great difficulty looking for them, given that they had my glasses. Because I wasn’t wearing my glasses, I was actually repeatedly asking a trash can for help. Eventually, a lifeguard found me and helped me find my friend.
If possible, stay in the same place you last saw them, as that will help a lot. I was reunited with my friend about ten minutes later.
Waterparks are a lot of fun, and have improved a lot over the years in increasing accessibility for people with disabilities. It never hurts to call ahead and speak with someone if there are concerns over accessibility, or to look on their website. Doing all of these things will ensure a smooth, safe, and (most importantly) fun visit.