The charity making life better by water

Disabled boaters’ information

Everyone is entitled to use and enjoy our waterways and take advantage of all the happiness and wellbeing benefits that come with a life on water.

Boating on our canals and rivers with a physical or mental impairment can present a whole set of different challenges, such as accessibility and boat handling. We're also very aware that it can make it hard to continuously cruise or move your boat in line with our boat licence terms and conditions.

Accessible moorings

Disabled Boater Forums

We hold an online forum once every couple of months, to hear your views on the issues you encounter, and to let you know what we are doing to help improve your boating experience.

Contact us if you want to receive notice of these meetings, or check Boaters Update for the link via Eventbrite. These forums also appear on the IWAF (Inland Waterways Accessibility Forum) page on Facebook - a place where any discussions relating to disability and boating can take place.

A British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter can be provided on request at the Disabled Boaters Forum online meetings.

The virtual Disabled Boaters Forum meetings usually take place on the third Wednesday of alternate month. We are trialing varying the time of the meeting to enable as many people as possible to participate. Meeting dates for 2023 are:

  • Wednesday 14 February 2024 – 4-6 pm
  • Tuesday 16 April 2024 – 6-8 pm
  • Wednesday 19 June 2024 – 6-8 pm
  • Tuesday 13 August 2024 – 4-6 pm
  • Wednesday 16 October – 4-6 pm
  • Tuesday 17 December – 6-8 pm

Equality: making sure everyone can access and enjoy the waterways

The Trust has an equality policy that, under the Equality Act 2010, sets out our approach to making sure everyone can access and use our waterways. We've a specific process for making ‘reasonable adjustments' to our normal cruising regulations for disabled boaters and people with protected characteristics.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • How we deliver our services
  • What physical adjustments we may make to our facilities
  • How we may make reasonable adjustments for disabled boaters without a home mooring
  • Other provisions we may make for boaters without home moorings
  • How we will review and monitor cases

Contact us first

If you find yourself struggling with accessibility and/or think you have a protected characteristic, first and foremost, talk to us. Your first point of call is your local licence support officer.

How to request any ‘reasonable adjustments' to your boat licence

Please complete our equality questionnaire.

It may seem like there are a lot of questions on this form but it's important to tell us about your physical and mental health, cognitive and intellectual difficulties, and how these affect your ability to use your boat. The more our team know about the issues you face, the more we can find ways to help you to continue to use and enjoy your boat.

Please read our our FAQs below before downloading our equality questionnaire.

If you are not able to complete the questionnaire using the PDF version, for example because you use a screen reader, please contact your local licence support officer to request a Word format document.

Wide beam boat surcharge

If you require a wide beam boat because of a disability then you will be exempt from the wide beam licence surcharge.

When you purchase or renew your licence you can select the exemption option and the wide beam boat surcharge will not be applied. The licence support team will be in touch to verify the exemption with you.


What do you mean by disability?

“Disability” is defined in the Equality Act 2010 (“the Act”) as a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. An impairment is ‘long-term' if it has lasted for at least 12 months, it's likely to last for a least 12 months, or it is likely to last for the rest of a person's life.

Why do I have to fill out a questionnaire?

It's vital you tell us as much information as possible to help us give you the right adjustments. We can only support you if we know what's causing you difficulties. Your information may also highlight where you need extra support and/or benefits. Sometimes, we can put you in touch with other agencies who can help too.

Do I need to fill it all in?

Please fill in as much of the form as you can. The more information you provide, the more we're able to make the best adjustment for your circumstances. If a section of the form isn't relevant to you, just mark it as ‘not applicable' or ‘n/a'.

Is it going to cost me money to send in, and is my information secure?

No, prepaid postage envelopes come with every questionnaire.

They're returned to a central office, so our team can deal with them confidentially. Once we receive them, your documents are scanned to a secure location with restricted access, and the originals returned to you by tracked post as soon as possible. We review the personal data we hold on a regular basis. If we conclude that certain personal data is no longer needed, that personal data will be destroyed.

You can read more about this in our privacy policy.

Who's reviewing my information?

All information is reviewed centrally and in strictest confidence by an independent internal group, which may include welfare, boating, and legal colleagues.

It's important to give you the right support for your situation. To do that, we need to know how affects you so we, sometimes with independent experts advice, can make appropriate adjustments. We do not question your diagnosis, but we need to know how it affects your ability to cruise.

You list a lot of medical documents, do I have to send them all in?

No, we've included a list to help you identify the types of documents that help us, but we realise you may not have all of them, and it's up to you which ones you share with us. However, we need enough information to confirm the disability you have and any details about how this affects you.

Will you pay my costs to get the medical evidence?

No, we're only asking you to fill out the questionnaire and supply copies of information you already have. If we do go on to ask for more specific information, and it cost you money, we'll pay the (reasonable) costs of these.

Why are you asking me about things not related to my use of the waterways?

We're trying to get a full picture of your general routine and what adjustments could help you. Everything we're asking - whether it's about your daily routine, work and study, or transport - is about us getting an understanding of your disabilities and the support you need to carry out your daily activities and how we can help with that.

Why do you ask about benefits?

Some benefits already have a medical requirement you need to have fulfilled, so we don't want to reinvent the wheel by asking you for information twice. However, a request for a reasonable adjustment is different in every case so we do still need you to provide the rest of the information so that we can consider your request properly. There may also be other benefits you are entitled to that you might not be getting yet (such as housing benefit for your licence) and the questionnaire can flag these up. See our vulnerable boaters' page for organisations offering support advice.

I have a blue badge which confirms I have a disability, why do I still need to fill in the questionnaire?

The blue badge doesn't necessarily demonstrate that you will have difficulties with meeting the continuous cruising requirements - it can be awarded for a variety of circumstances. We review all requests for reasonable adjustments on an individual basis depending on your circumstances, included when including where you are on the network, so we need to have the information we've asked for in the questionnaire to do this fairly.

Can I notify you when I buy my licence if there is a disabled boater on board, even if I don't want any adjustments?

We've given a lot of consideration to this question, but unfortunately, under the general data protection regulations (GDPR), we can only hold information about a boater if there is a need to hold that information.

If you request an equalities adjustment because you're disabled or need some other specific help, then it would be valid for us to hold information like this so that we can help you. Unfortunately, if a disabled boater hasn't requested or doesn't want any reasonable adjustment or help, there would be no valid reason for us to hold this information.

Why do you need to know the relationship I have with the person helping me with my request?

We're asking if this person is a professional support worker, a friend or relative so we can tailor our communication with them appropriately.

Would you consider ‘respite moorings' for disabled boaters who may need to moor for a longer period?

We already can and do provide adjustments for disabled boaters who may need to moor for a longer period. However, we always try to make adjustments that meet the needs of the individual boater, as each individual might have specific needs for their disability.

If a disabled boater needs to moor for a longer period, we can agree a mooring location that meets the boater's needs. Setting up many fixed location ‘respite moorings' would not be practical and wouldn't be as flexible as agreeing a mooring location that works for the individual disabled boater.

Can you provide disabled parking spaces close to canal access points/at moorings?

Where we have existing car parks, such as at museums and large attractions, we already provide disabled parking spaces. Unfortunately, in most places we don't own much land beyond the towpath and we don't have the power to create parking spaces on other people's land. However, we're always happy to work with partner organisations to look at improving access wherever we can.

Can you get local health authorities to notify you if someone who lives on a boat is admitted to hospital and is not currently on or able to move their boat?

Unfortunately, due to data protection regulation it is up to the boater to give permission for this information to be passed on to us. However, if we can't get hold of a boater our local teams will make enquiries to see if we can find out where they are and if they are ok.

To help a boater let other people (such as a paramedic or a member of the police) know in an emergency that they live on a boat, we're going to produce a simple card that any boater can fill in. The card will include the boater's name, their boat name and boat index number, along with our contact details. This will be available to download soon from our website, but we'll also provide a printed copy for anyone who doesn't have access to a printer.

What help can you provide for boaters without a fixed abode to help them access facilities such as local healthcare centres and local authority recycling centres?

Our welfare officer is working with Healthwatch Cheshire, who ran a report on the difficulties boaters face when trying to access medical support and register with a GP. NHS guidelines say that GP services cannot refuse to register someone because they are homeless, do not have proof of address or identification, or because of their immigration status. GP surgeries can only refuse to register someone if they are already full or if the person is living outside the practice area, and they must explain this in writing.

There's a ‘My right to healthcare' card in circulation and we're working with Cheshire Healthwatch to see if that card (predominantly aimed at the homeless) could also include other communities like boaters. The Cheshire Healthwatch meetings are also working towards the training needs of frontline colleagues so that they are more aware of these guidelines.

Will I have to fill this questionnaire in every year?

No. We have a simplified process to ask you about what, if anything, has changed in the last year and how the current adjustment is working for you. We will ask you to fill in the full questionnaire every two years to ensure that the information we hold about you is accurate and up to date.

Last Edited: 15 January 2024

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