Zach Anner relies on a wheelchair to get around, but that’s not stopping the 27-year-old with cerebral palsy. On his new travel show debuting Monday on Oprah Winfrey’s cable network, Anner tries everything from surfing to rock climbing.
Anner landed the gig earlier this year when Winfrey selected him as one of two winners of her “Your OWN Show” contest. The six-episode run of “Rollin’ with Zach” kicks off Monday night on OWN (8 p.m. ET). Two half-hour episodes will air back-to-back each Monday for three weeks.
Shot over two months this summer, the show follows Anner as he travels to Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Portland, Ore. Each episode focuses on a different city, with Anner taking viewers along for the ride as he counts down his top five favorite things to do.
Ahead of the premiere, Anner spoke with Disability Scoop about the rewards and challenges of making his own show and what he hopes audiences will take away from seeing a television host with a disability.
Disability Scoop: What was it like making the show?
Zach Anner: I got to see a really unique view on this country and have a great time doing it. It was just an amazing adventure. My goal was always to make the crew laugh and have a good time with them and hopefully the viewers at home will get that sense of fun and excitement.
Disability Scoop: You really challenge yourself on the show to try all kinds of new things — from surfing to sailing, rock climbing to water skiing. Did you ever imagine doing these things?
Zach Anner: Some of the things I didn’t know were even in the realm of possibility. Rock climbing was something that I never thought I’d be doing. I’m not a mountain climber. I’m not even a stair climber. It was the most physically demanding thing. Not all of the challenges are physical. In New York I do stand-up comedy and that was terrifying. We just wanted to present different challenges that would be difficult whether you had a disability or not.
Disability Scoop: You talk a lot on the show about having cerebral palsy. Was that something that was conscious on your part?
Zach Anner: Obviously people tuning in for the first time are going to wonder, what is it that this guy has? I wanted to be able to communicate that and then move on. It’s not something that should be the focus of the show or the main thing that people are thinking about.
Disability Scoop: Of the cities you visited, how did they compare in terms of accessibility?
Zach Anner: New York was the hardest. The door fell off (of our accessible van) so we had to get a cab in New York City that was accessible and that is harder than you would think.
Disability Scoop: What do you want people to take away from the show?
Zach Anner: I hope that what happens is people will see the show and it’ll inspire them to get off the couch and go travel.
I’m hoping that it puts people with disabilities in a little bit of a different light than they’ve seen before. The grand hope from this is that five years from now, if you see somebody on television that uses a wheelchair, it’s no big deal.
Disability Scoop: What’s next for you?
Zach Anner: The thing that I want is to get a billion viewers for this. In the meantime, I’m filming things in Austin, (Texas). No matter what happens with this, it’s a great experience and hopefully it gives people a chance to see something new and if people like it, we’ll go out there and do it again. I certainly had a great time and I hope that comes through on the show.