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.
In 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 who 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 stereotypical images 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 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.
Can you make information for disabled boaters easier to find on your website?
Yes. We’ve made some immediate changes to make it easier to find information for disabled customers. We've set up a new short link (canalrivertrust.org.uk/equality) where you can find helpful information for disabled boaters.
We’re also 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 the near future.
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.
Accessible towpaths are really important for those with limited mobility and people in wheelchairs. Do you know how much of your towpath network is accessible and do you have a plan to improve this?
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 where you can view this information.
In the financial year 2018/19 we worked closely with partner organisations to invest £7.7 million on improving towpath access and we're 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.
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.
Thanks again to the Inland Waterway Accessibility Forum for hosting this meeting in December 2019.
We look forward to holding more meetings with boaters and carers in the future. These will be advertised on our meetings pages, in Boaters' Update and through our boating social media channels on Facebook and Twitter.
Last date edited: 28 January 2021
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Our boating team bring you news of their work across our network, as well as the stories of boaters they meetSee more blogs from this author