4/1/2015: Lanes open wide for disabled bowlers
Eastern Shore bowling alley has been redesigned to allow complete wheelchair access
By Bill Kerbin, Staff Writer Worcester County Times
POCOMOKE CITY -- Watching a wheelchair-bound bowler trying to maneuver himself into the restroom at the Eastern Shore Lanes one night was a turning point for the facility's owner Tommy Fitzpatrick.
"That opened my eyes," said Fitzpatrick as he recalled the incident involving a young regular at his bowling alley on Route 113, who was left bound to the wheelchair after a car accident.
The result is a total remodeling of Eastern Shore Lanes.
Fitzpatrick said after that incident, he began to think about what he could do to make the bowling alley more accessible to physically disabled patrons.
He said he traveled to other lanes to see how they handled the situation, but did not like what had been done in those facilities.
"So I designed it (the improvements) myself," he said.
He said he added about 3,000 square feet to the facility and made the building wheelchair accessible. All areas leave openings that are wide enough for a wheelchair to pass through. There is a counter that is not only low enough for a wheelchair, but has space underneath so that the occupant can pull up to the countertop.
Before the redesign, there was a large step from the counter area to the bowling lanes. That step has been eliminated so that the entire surface is level. Also there are tables at the lanes that are accessible to wheelchairs. All 16 lanes are now wheelchair accessible, said Fitzpatrick.
All the restrooms are wheelchair accessible to the point that they can be rolled up to the sinks. There is an extra large space in each of the restrooms.
One of his visitors offered a suggestion for changing the parking lot also to make it more accessible, he said.
Many of the handicapped spaces at businesses are located directly in front of the doors or very near to the doors. This time the spots are at the end of the line to make them more van accessible. Also there is a total of five spots, although only two are required.
After reading an article by Paul Rendine, the chairman of Disability Advocates of Delmarva, Fitzpatrick decided to show him the renovation plans.
"He fell in love with the plans," Fitzpatrick said.
And Rendine said Fitzpatrick had done "a fantastic job. He did the right thing without being told."
The facility now attracts several groups with disabled members who come out and use the alley.
Students at Cedar Chapel school in Snow Hill are regular users and a group from Somerset County came recently with 14 members in wheelchairs.
"I am dedicating these improvements to Joey Ferrell (the bowler who inspired him to make the improvements)," Fitzpatrick said.
Schools from Accomack, Worcester, Somerset and Wicomico counties also come to Pocomoke City to bowl. There is a state tournament coming in May that will bring about 1,000 women to Pocomoke City.
"I actually run four businesses out of this building," Fitzpatrick said. They include a restaurant (he added a complete new kitchen in the renovations), a pro shop, an arcade and, of course, the bowling alley.
Photo by Peter J. Casey
Originally published Thursday, February 1, 2007 in the Worcester County Times
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