'This opens up a world of opportunities for us': New all-terrain wheelchair now available at Wehr Nature Center

NOW: ’This opens up a world of opportunities for us’: New all-terrain wheelchair now available at Wehr Nature Center

FRANKLIN, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Having battled paralysis for the last three decades, Michelle Nelson has had to miss out on some family adventures over the years.

"We've gone to different parks, national parks and she'll wait in the visitor center while we go hike," said Dave Nelson, Michelle's husband. "If you don't have a nice hard pack or a paved trail, it really limits what we can do."

In her daily-use wheelchair, Dave and Michelle would attempt to explore and enjoy nature in different ways. They admit it was a challenge.

"I think, sometimes, I don't want to do something because I feel I can't do it myself," Michelle said. "It's really awesome to be able to just be here."

On Wednesday, July 13, the couple and their daughter made the trip from East Troy to the Wehr Nature Center in Franklin to enjoy some of the five miles of trails the center has to offer. Thanks to a new addition available for guests to reserve, they were able to take in the sights and sounds with a lot more ease.

"I just kind of thought, 'Oh, I won't be able to do that,'" Michelle explained. "Never really thought that I would have that option."

After two years of planning, Wehr Nature Center and Access Ability Wisconsin have teamed up to bring an all-terrain wheelchair to the center for free public use. It's an opportunity Carly Hintz, director at Wehr Nature Center, saw to be filled with positives.

"Wehr Nature Center only has about a mile of ADA accessible boardwalk, but we have five miles of trails," Hintz said. "To make it so that anyone, universally, can come here and access all those different areas of the nature center; this is a game changer."

Reserving the chair is easy. All you have to do is head to the Access Ability Wisconsin website and check availability. Hintz says people have the option to use the chair at Wehr or take it to another location.

"You can use it on-site here at the nature center, or if you have hitching capabilities or towing capabilities, you can reserve the chair and trailer and take it wherever you want to," Hintz explained. "There's over 5-million acres of public land in Wisconsin. We're so blessed, right? But there's over 500,000 people who have some type of mobility disability that prevents them from accessing that land."

Hintz and Access Ability Wisconsin are hopeful the addition of this new chair in Franklin will continue to help and encourage people with physical challenges to get outdoors and experience all that nature has to offer. The Nelsons are hopeful for that as well.

"There aren't the limitations that people think there may be," Michelle said. "It's just awesome to be able to be here and have the freedom, the independence, and not have to say 'Hey, can you stop? Can you push me over there?'"

Access Ability Wisconsin is a 501©3 non-profit organization working to place at least one all-terrain outdoor wheelchair with an enclosed trailer in each of Wisconsin's 72 counties. Learn more about the organization here.

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