WIGHTLINK has been awarded £276,800 to help improve travel to and from the Isle of Wight for customers with disabilities.
The ferry company‘s submission for the government’s Marine Accessibility Fund grant was drafted after consultation with accessible travel company Unlimited Island.
Fully accessible toilets for disabled adults and children will be built in Portsmouth and Ryde, and improved height accessible ticket machines for wheelchair users will be installed in all ports.
There will be new intercom systems at Ryde Pier and Portsmouth Port to help disabled foot passengers request assistance and more electric wheelchairs to help Wightlink staff help customers board ferries and catamarans.
Changing Places’ two accessible toilets, fitted with winches, will give people with disabilities the confidence to board the ferry knowing their needs can be met during the journey.
The continental facilities at Wightlink’s car ferry terminal at Gunwharf Road, Portsmouth will also include a shower and will be available 24 hours a day. The dry toilets at Wightlink’s terminal at Ryde Pier Head will be open while the FastCats are in service .
The facilities will also accommodate people with invisible disabilities who may need a quiet room to wait, as well as autistic children and adults.
Wightlink chief executive Keith Greenfield said: “We are grateful to the government for this grant, which will help us make a difference for disabled travelers wishing to cross the Solent.
“While Wightlink adheres to all accessibility regulations and our staff always do all they can to help travelers with disabilities, there is always room for more to make their journeys easier and more enjoyable. Changing Places toilets were central to Wightlink’s application for government funding.
Over a quarter of a million disabled adults and children in the UK need extra support to use the toilet safely and comfortably. They need specialized equipment and space to move around. Ordinary accessible toilets (“disabled toilets”) are not good enough to accommodate these people and many people with disabilities are forced to limit their travel plans as they may fear that they will not be able to find an adapted toilet. It affects people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy and neuromuscular diseases, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and learning disabilities.
Once built and registered on www.changing-places.org for all to see, these facilities would encourage more people with disabilities to travel with confidence. The bedrooms would also provide a quiet place for autistic adults and children to wait for their ferry.
Maritimes Minister Robert Courts said: “This funding will tangibly improve access to this vital ferry link, which is vital to keeping communities linked to the mainland. We are committed to helping people travel with confidence as we continue to rebuild from the pandemic. »
Wightlink worked with accessible travel company Unlimited Island on the grant application.
Director Claire Walker said: “Unlimited Island is delighted with this news. We were delighted to help Wightlink set up their app and are sure visitors with disabilities will appreciate the opportunity to use Changing Places toilets and other facilities at Solent Ports.