After 18 years away, Ryan Gooch Nelson returned to his favorite place on Earth on Sunday when he wheeled his wheelchair out on the new beach access mats on the Ocean City Beach.

Nelson was paralyzed in a truck accident 18 years ago and has been wheelchair-bound ever since, meaning trips to the Ocean City beach were no longer a possibility for the Woodstown man whose wife says the beach was a favorite place of his since childhood.

This year, Ocean City has begun to create an accessible pathway to the beach on 14th, 34th, and 58th street. This has been a gamechanger for many in wheelchairs, and especially for Ryan, according to Brianna on Facebook.

For the first time in 18 years, my husband was able to go on the beach. There are no words to express what an incredible experience this was and how much it means to us.

My husband is an advocate for people with disabilities so this really meant a lot to us! ...I want as many people to know about it as possible.  If you have time today, please call or email the mayor! We want him and all of Ocean City to know what a tremendous difference this makes!

This is the first year for Ocean City's wheelchair mat access program, according to the city's website.

The city is experimenting with ADA-accessible beach-access mats stretching onto the beaches at Surf Road, Waverly Beach (off E. Atlantic Blvd.), Stenton Place, 14th Street, 34th Street Beach and 58th Street Beach. These paths lead to sitting areas where those in wheelchairs can enjoy the beach.  Accessibility measures include ramps over the boardwalk or bulkhead, hard-packed dune crossovers and plastic beach mats across portions of soft sand.

By the way, Ryan Gooch Nelson is the founding member of the group RAMPD, or Recording Artists and Music Professionals With disabilities. He is also the lead singer and slide guitarist with the group Gooch and the Motion. Watch his video and find out more about him and his music.

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