Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Nick DeLange, inclusion intern at the Wehr Nature Center
FRANKLIN, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Wehr Nature Center in Franklin recently got an all-terrain wheelchair. It's the first of its kind in Milwaukee County, allowing people with mobility challenges greater access to the great outdoors.
Nick DeLange is Wehr's inclusion intern and he helped launch this new initiative. DeLange sat down with CBS 58 to talk about what this wheelchair means for people with disabilities.
For DeLange, gearing up for a hike is a little bit different.
"That feel good?" asked Carly Hintz, Wehr Nature Center's director, as she fastened Velcro around DeLange's legs in the all-terrain wheelchair.
Like a lot of people, DeLange wants to get outside and hit the trails, too.
"It can go over just about anything," he said of the new wheelchair.
DeLange started last fall as the inclusion intern at the Wehr Nature Center. He's been part of the launch of the all-terrain wheelchair. It's giving access to parts of the park that were inaccessible before.
In a traditional wheelchair, woodchips and gravel paths can be hard to navigate.
"Paths and stuff aren't very accessible. Some of them have a lot of stairs. Some of them don't have places where you can sit down," DeLange said.
But the wide tracks of the all-terrain wheelchair make everything possible.
DeLange has a master's degree in social work. He also has cerebral palsy and a vision impairment. Advocating for those with disabilities is his passion.
"That's something that's always been very important to me, is making sure that people with disabilities and other issues can experience nature," he said.
The wheelchair project was two years in the making, in partnership with Access Ability Wisconsin.
"One thing about Wehr Nature Center, is that we really aspire to be a leading destination in the Midwest for breaking down barriers for people of all abilities," Hintz said. "So we have over five miles of trails, like Nick said, one mile of it is ADA accessible."
Hintz said unfortunately, that's not unusual.
"There's over 5.7 million acres of public land in Wisconsin, and of that, there's only like 500,000 that are accessible to people with mobility challenges," she added.
She said DeLange is the perfect fit for the project.
"He's extremely intelligent and extremely passionate about getting people connected to nature," she said.
And he's not afraid to try new things.
"I must admit, when I first saw it, I was like, oh. This thing is bigger than me," DeLange said of the wheelchair.
He's slowly exploring all five miles of trails at Wehr and wants others to follow his lead.
"I would encourage a lot of people to come out and try the chair," he said.
The impact goes beyond the nature center. The all-terrain wheelchair can even be reserved and taken off site for up to a week, and it's free to use.
"It's just kind of mind-blowing that an adaptive piece of equipment like this can open up such opportunities," Hintz said.
Hintz also said they're getting calls and reservations daily. DeLange is proud to be a part of this positive change.
"It makes me feel really good about being able to help other people," he said.
DeLange's next project will focus on working with adults with memory loss.
For more information on Wehr Nature Center, just click here.
If you'd like to nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie at message at [email protected].