News article created on 17 December 2019

Disabled boaters' feedback

We've held a number of meetings with boaters who have a physical or mental impairment to give them the opportunity to find out what we're doing to support disabled boaters.

Fradley Junction Fradley Junction

On 16 December 2019 we held an online discussion with disabled boaters kindly hosted by the Inland Waterways Accessibility Forum on Facebook. The questions and answers below came from that session.

Can you simplify the equalities process?

Our equality process is constantly reviewed to try to make it easier to use. We use feedback from those that use the process to make improvements. We've begun to review and improve the accessibility of the questionnaire and associated documents.

We’ve also listened to feedback from boaters and colleagues and have removed or reduced some of the elements from the process that were identified as being causes of frustration. We’ll also be setting out the equalities process on our website in more detail to ensure we're improving our transparency. This was, again, as a result of feedback from a disabled boater.

Can you create a badge (for those who want to display it) to put in their window to show they have an equalities adjustment?

We've been working on a badge that those of you with an equalities adjustment can use. It would not be compulsory to display the badge – so you would only need to display it if you wanted to. We listened to what disabled boaters told us at the meetings and have tried to design a badge that is clear, but discreet and doesn’t use any stereotyped image of disabled people (such as a wheelchair). We’ll be seeking feedback from boaters before we finalise the design of the badge.

Can I notify the Trust when I buy my licence if there is a disabled boater on board – even if I don’t want any adjustment?

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 such as this so 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 to hold this information.

Can you make information for disabled boaters easier to find on your website?

Yes. We’ve done some immediate changes to make it easier to find information easier for disabled customers. We've set up a new short link canalrivertrust.org.uk/equality where you can find helpful information for disabled boaters. Plus, we’re doing a lot of work behind the scenes looking at software that can make the whole of our website more accessible. We hope that you’ll see more website improvements in 2020.

Would the Trust consider ‘respite moorings’ for disabled boaters who may need to moor for a longer period?

The Trust already can and does 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 boaters 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 the Trust 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 the Trust doesn’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 other partners to look at improving access wherever we can.

Accessible towpaths are really important for those with limited mobility and people in wheelchairs, does the Trust know how much of your towpaths are accessible and do you have a plan to make more towpaths accessible?

We want as many people as possible to experience the benefits of spending time by the water, so we’ve been gathering information on our towpaths and their access points to make it easier for everyone to discover their local waterway. We’ve created an accessibility map on our website where you can view this information.

In the past year (financial year 2018/19) we’ve worked closely with partners to invest £7.7 million on improving towpath access and are committed to improving even more. We’ve been prioritising the areas with the highest use, but we’re always keen to hear from our visitors about which sections you think need to be prioritised for future improvements.

What can you do to get local health authorities to notify you if someone who lives on a boat gets admitted to hospital so that you know that they are not currently on or able to move their boat?

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

To help people let other people know that they live on a boat (especially in an emergency situation) we’re going to produce a simple card that any boater can fill in with the name, boat name and boat index number along with contact details for the Trust. This will be available to download soon from our website but we’ll also be able to provide a printed copy for anyone who doesn’t have a printer.

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

Our welfare officer is currently working with Healthwatch Cheshire who ran a recent report on the difficulties boaters face when trying to access medical support and registering 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 currently a ‘My right to healthcare’ card that's in circulation and we're working together with Cheshire Healthwatch to see if that card (predominantly aimed at the homeless) could also include other communities like the boating community. The Cheshire Healthwatch meetings are also working towards training needs of front line colleagues so they are more aware of these guidelines.

Thanks again to the Inland Waterway Accessibility Forum for hosting the meeting on 16 December.

We look forward to holding more meetings with boaters and carers in the future. These meetings will be advertised on our meetings pages, in Boaters Update and via our boating social media channels on Facebook and Twitter.

About this blog

The boating team

Find out what the Canal & River Trust's boating team have been up to.

See more blogs from this author