Transcripts

On the Coast: Wheelchairs on the Beach

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:33:28
We head now from the farm to the beach for our weekly segment "On The Coast." Coastal reporter Bryan Russo shares the latest from the eastern shore of Maryland and coastal Delaware. Today, we learn how the town of Ocean City, Md has been going outside the box when it comes to getting on and around the beach in a wheelchair. And Bryan joins us now from Ocean City. Hey there, Bryan.

MR. BRYAN RUSSO

13:33:52
Hey, Rebecca.

SHEIR

13:33:54
So Ocean City has created this beach wheelchair program to make the sand more accessible to disabled people. How exactly does it work?

RUSSO

13:34:00
Well, you can find beach wheelchair programs like the one in Ocean City up and down the coast. Several of the Delaware beaches have smaller wheelchair programs, like in Rehoboth, they have a handful of chairs. Bethany Beach, I think, has two. But they pale in comparison to Ocean City.

RUSSO

13:34:17
Ocean City has more than 16 locations at the top of the dune line where they keep the wheelchairs. The lifeguards help people get them out of the box and help the people get into the chairs. And the people can use it for the day or even for the week. All told, there are more than 40 beach wheelchairs for visitors to use while they're in town and they're free.

SHEIR

13:34:34
So I've seen a regular, you know, everyday wheelchair. I've never seen one of these beach wheelchairs and I'm having a bit of trouble picturing what it might look like. Can you describe one of them for us?

RUSSO

13:34:42
Well, the whole issue is mobility through the sand so the wheels are the most visibly different things. There are two oversized wheels in the front, kind of the size of a large pizza and two even bigger ones in the back, kind of like a smaller car tire but they're smooth and gray. They almost look like they can float. And they use these oversized wheels to help navigate over the sandy terrain. And as you might guess, they're not cheap. I went this week to see Wayne Pryor, the town's grant coordinator, and he basically purchases these chairs for the program.

MR. WAYNE PRYOR

13:35:15
When the program originated, we had PVC beach wheelchairs and what we found out was that the PVC did not hold up. And that due to the weather and elements and the usage that those, they started splintering. So we went and did the research. When I say we, the committee went and did the research and we came up with this beach wheelchair that's manufactured down in Florida by a company called Deming Designs. And currently, the price of the chair is $2,450 delivered to Ocean City.

SHEIR

13:35:44
And how is the town paying for all these beach wheelchairs?

RUSSO

13:35:47
It's all done by donations. See, this program was started a little more than a decade ago by Audrey Williams. She's a local woman who, at the time, was the city's chairperson for The Americans with Disabilities Act Committee. Wayne Pryor says she had a very passionate vision for this program.

PRYOR

13:36:03
She had this vision to be able to have people go to the ocean that were physically challenged and be able to enjoy it just like everyone else that does.

RUSSO

13:36:12
And she went door to door to raise the money for the first beach wheelchairs. And today, that philanthropic spirit continues as every chair in the town's beach wheelchair fleet has been paid for by donations.

PRYOR

13:36:24
We've raised as much as nearly $10,000 in a year to as small as $3,000 in a year and mostly we receive anywhere from right about now about 100 donations a year.

SHEIR

13:36:36
So who then is using these wheelchairs? What can you tell us about, you know, the people who rely on this service?

RUSSO

13:36:41
Well, I know a few families with elderly relatives who have mobility problems and they make a point to go to the beach on 40th Street where they have one of these wheelchair boxes. But the population using this program is much broader than you'd think. Here's Tina Quick, she works in the town's Recreation and Parks Department and she's tasked with handling the hundreds of requests for beach wheelchairs during the summer season.

MS. TINA QUICK

13:37:04
Sometimes we have requests from people who possibly have had some type of surgery, knee surgery or foot surgery and they just are incapacitated. They're not able to walk and they want to have access to the beach so we do allow them to transport to the beach. Of course, then at that point, they have to get themselves positioned in whatever other chair they have and then return it so that other people can use it.

SHEIR

13:37:27
Bryan, as you know, summer is pretty much here so for people who might be coming to Ocean City and they want to use one of these wheelchairs. What should they do?

RUSSO

13:37:33
Well, they can go on the oceancitymd.gov website and search for beach wheelchairs. That will give them a list of all the beaches from the inlet to the 145th Street that have the wheelchair boxes. You can also reserve them by going to the Convention Center on 41st Street or at the police station on 65th Street.

SHEIR

13:37:53
Before we wrap up, I'm curious how are people responding to this program in Ocean City, people who perhaps, you know, couldn't access the beach without it.

RUSSO

13:38:01
Well, Ocean City has a very substantial ADA program and the beach wheelchair program is an added feather in the cap, so to speak. Wayne Pryor says they've gotten a lot of positive feedback over the years.

PRYOR

13:38:12
It's very touching to see some of the stories, people sending photos in where they haven't been able to get to the ocean's edge, in some cases, their entire lives.

RUSSO

13:38:20
And now, he says right here in Ocean City, they can finally feel the ocean breeze on their skin.

SHEIR

13:38:25
Well, Bryan, as always, it's been a pleasure having you here on "Metro Connection." Thanks for joining us.

RUSSO

13:38:31
Thanks, Rebecca, have a good weekend.

SHEIR

13:38:33
Bryan Russo is the host of Coastal Connection on 88.3 in Ocean City, Md. To learn more about the beach wheelchair program and to see Bryan's photographs from the coast, visit our website, metroconnection.org

SHEIR

13:38:46
Up next, turning to teachers for ideas on how to fix education...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1

13:38:51
The average teacher collects 40,000 pieces of data on one student every year and that data can be disconnected from what you teach every day.

SHEIR

13:39:01
...and applauding Washington theater audiences with a brand new award.

LORRAINE TREANOR

13:39:05
You are the last beat of the play. Theater is being written for you, you need to be there.

SHEIR

13:39:11
It's coming your way on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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