UK’s first ‘truly barrier-free’ boating weekend set for May
Disabled people will have the opportunity to take a ride on a powerboat or enjoy a relaxing sail around Portsmouth Harbour and the Solent this spring, thanks to a collaboration between two of Britain’s accessible boating organisations.
The DSA operates its fully accessible catamaran Scott Bader in Portsmouth, and Wetwheels Solent also operates a fully accessible power catamaran in the area. Both organisations are offering all disabled people, including those with profound and complex disabilities, the opportunity to enjoy the Blue Health benefits of being on the water.
Disabled people can pre-book a free 90-minute experience on either vessel free of charge, including one carer, by contacting Wetwheels (07904 997 622) or Scott Bader (07841 675 308).
Both boats will be running five trips a day for both days starting from 9:30 am, with organisers recommending people book early to reserve their slots.
“Portsmouth is unique in the UK, possibly the world, being home to not only a fully accessible sailing yacht but also a fully accessible powerboat,” says Geoff Holt, the founder of Wetwheels. “We wanted to showcase what we do and what better way than to have an event, not only for disabled people in our local community, but also for local businesses and the public to recognise the amazing work both organisations are doing on a day-to-day basis right here in Portsmouth taking many thousands of disabled people out for an experience on the water each year.”
Holt says it “doesn’t really matter” whether people prefer to get afloat in a sailing boat or motorboat. “Ultimately it is about getting out onto the sea. Only out there can you forget about your disability truly begin to understand and experience our amazing maritime heritage and precious marine environment”.
Founder of the DSA, Mike Wood says that the event is a fantastic opportunity to enable disabled people to truly access the water.
“What other activity can offer the tranquillity of drifting about on a quiet sunny afternoon to the steep learning curve of trimming your sails to perfection, the mental agility of navigation and the adrenalin of taking the helm?” he says. “We have something for everyone and are looking forward to getting you out on the water.”
Both Wood and Holt are paralysed with high-level spinal injuries and use heavy powered wheelchairs. They both say they are very clear that true ‘barrier free’ sailing or boating must include the ability to take all disabilities, including heavy wheelchairs and people with severe and complex learning disabilities.
The DSA and Wetwheels say they are the only boating organisations in the UK able to offer this to all disabled people who want to get out onto the open sea. They also prioritise ensuring disabled people should be participants and not passengers, with both vessels designed to be steered by their disabled guests.
Yvonne Clay, centre director at Gunwharf Quays, which includes fully accessible Changing Places toilet facilities, says accessibility is a “key focus” at the marina.
“The event will offer amazing opportunities for the disabled community, including the chance to drive the boats from our fantastic marina,” she says. “For those that wish to shop and dine after a busy day on the Solent, we have lifts throughout the outlet and offer pre-bookable Shopmobility services that provide hands-free shopping at no charge and a free carry-to-car service.”