Returning to the ocean with Access Asbury | Guest Blogger Scott Chesney

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on February 26, 2019 # Mobility, News, Events, Asbury

So what do you think of when you think of Asbury Park? The Jersey Shore? The Boardwalk?The Stone Pony and all of the legendary rockin’ rollers who have played there? The numerous festivals throughout the year? It’s rich history? The city’s revitalization over the past few years?

One thing is certain, whatever has sparked your memories or current interest in this historic and beautiful city, I am quite certain it has not been because of its wheelchair accessibility…until now! Thanks to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s partnership with the City of Asbury Park, the city is gradually becoming a model of wheelchair accessibility that will serve both its residents and tourists with mobility disabilities. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Boardwalk, to the train station and local businesses, the challenge of making the city accessible for everyone has been accepted…and progress is already being made.

Access Asbury began in the summer of 2018 at the beautiful beaches of Asbury Park. Getting onto the beach has always been an issue for people who use wheelchairs and unfortunately too many have just avoided the beach altogether. Whether it be a manual wheelchair or even a powerchair, beaches are just not wheelchair-friendly. Our wheels get stuck in the sand and we cannot go very far.I, myself, am a paraplegic and for nearly two decades, I simply avoided the beach…one of my first loves in life .As a youngster, before a paralyzing stroke entered my life at age 15, I loved going to the Jersey Shore with my family. I would watch daytime turn to night time with endless hours being spent in the ocean and on the beach.

Over the past ten years, I have slowly, but surely returned to the ocean and the beach. Whether it be friends carrying me, being transported in a large beach chair with huge inflated tires, or even having someone hold my legs while I crawl on my hands, like a wheelbarrow race, I have tried to be creative in doing whatever it takes to return the ocean and the beach. Just a few short years ago, I was introduced to adaptive surfing, which renewed my passion and lead to my getting in the ocean even more. Still, I usually have a large team of friends and family around to support me in getting on and off the beach and in and out of the water. There is really no independence other than when I am riding those waves.

Well, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is working to change that by teaming up with AccessDeck and WaterWheels. They have brought in special interlocking mats that have been put down on most of Asbury Park Boardwalk beach entrances. Some of the mats continue to within 20-30 yards of the ocean which provides excellent options for people who use wheelchairs.If you just want to get onto the beach, the mats can accommodate you.If you want to get close, but not into the ocean, the mats can help get you there. Also, for those of you who want to get into the ocean, yes, the mats will help you, but thanks to a grant from the Plangere Foundation, six beach WaterWheels adaptive floating beach chairs were donated by the Reeve Foundation. These chairs will actually go right into the ocean, with minimal assistance needed…maybe a person or two.Now this is progress!

Next stop…making local businesses, the train station, and other pieces of the city more accessible. Stay tuned for updates on those, the progress on the beach, and events to raise funds to make even more of Asbury Park accessible and also generate awareness to what’s possible for people with mobility disabilities!

Connect with you soon,

Scott