Wells, a tourist town known for its beaches, now has a floating wheelchair available for visitors with mobility restrictions who want to dip into the Atlantic.

The wheelchair was donated to the town Monday by Smile Mass, a Massachusetts nonprofit organization that works on projects to provide access for children and adults with disabilities. Smile Mass has provided floating wheelchairs for more than 75 Massachusetts beaches.

The floating wheelchair given to the town of Wells – the first donation made by the organization in Maine – was the result of good timing and good luck, said Town Manager Jonathan Carter. The town had previously been given a wheelchair with oversized tires to use on the sand, but it could not go in the water and needs repair.

After the town received requests for floating wheelchairs, Carter began researching the price and found they usually cost upwards of $1,500 each. He reached out to Alpha One in South Portland, which focuses on independent living services for people with disabilities, and was given a link to the Smile Mass website. Linda Rizzo, an administrative assistant at the Wells Fire Department, reached out to Smile Mass to learn more about the floating wheelchair program.

“Within 48 hours we had a chair,” Carter said. “It was the right time and the right place.”

On Monday, Smile Mass co-founder Susan Brown traveled to Wells to present the floating wheelchair to Carter, Fire Chief Wayne Vetre and Emily Bordeau, a Wells ocean rescue lifeguard captain. Carter said Brown is also donating chairs this week in Ocean Park and at Camp Sunshine in Sebago.

The chair will soon be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the lifeguard shack at Wells Beach at the end of Atlantic Avenue. Once the town works out the process for how the chair will be lent out, more information will be posted on the fire department page of the town website. People who borrow the chair will be asked to sign a liability waiver and may need to provide a copy of their ID.

“We want to be as accommodating as we can,” Carter said. “This will mean more people can enjoy the water.”

Town officials are now considering the possibility of buying another floating wheelchair for Wells Beach and one for the beach at Drakes Island.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: grahamgillian

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