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Accessibility ‘top of the agenda’ for NorthLink

NorthLink staff held a training session with Access Panel Orkney as part of work to improve accessibility on their vessels.

Changes are being made by NorthLink Ferries to make their services more accessible to all.

On board information workshops and the introduction of new website software are the latest efforts being made by the company to improve services for those with additional support needs.

The ferry operator implemented its new Recite Me accessibility tool on its website, this month, to make it more suitable to folk’s needs. The new software — which can be used on desktops and mobile browsers — allows website visitors to customise what they see and hear, from changing the contrast settings, language, font size and more.

In the UK, there are estimated to be 1.5 million people with a learning disability and 4.2 million people who have English as a second language. ‘Recite Me’ has the ability to translate the NorthLink Ferries website into more than 100 languages — including Scots Gaelic (Gaidhlig). It can also translate text-to-speech to help visually impaired users and focus screen areas for those with dyslexia.

On Monday, February 18, teams on board MV Hamnavoe hosted an Access Panel Orkney session, where staff were provided with disability awareness training. During the two-hour session, staff were able to experience what it’s like to have a disability by wearing glasses that simulated blindness, used wheelchairs and crutches and had their hearing dampened.

Carolyn Griffiths of Access Panel Orkney said: “The aim of our session was to let staff experience disabilities first-hand so they can empathise with passengers’ needs.

“All of us running the training have a disability so we were able to provide first-hand examples of what accessible travel is like for us. We were delighted to be welcomed on board to provide this training and it’s great to see a company like Serco NorthLink Ferries take accessibility for passengers seriously.”

The MV Hjaltland will also host a Making Connections workshop today, Friday, February 22. The workshop will look at how passengers navigate potential barriers when changing from one mode of transport to another. Making Connections brings disabled people together with transport operators to discuss, address and plan how travel connections can be made easier.

Seumas Campbell, customer service director at NorthLink Ferries, said: “Catering for passengers with varying degrees of disability is an important part of our service provision. Whether they are using our website to book their journey, making a connection from other forms of public transport or coming on board one of our vessels, we believe that passengers should experience a service that caters to all their needs.

“The new website software will allow visitors to customise what they see and hear and as more and more visitors from around the world choose NorthLink Ferries to travel to the Northern Isles, ‘Recite Me’ is a great tool to help them plan and book their journey.

“Our workshops are also a great way in training our staff on how they can best help and understand passengers’ needs. We pride ourselves on having a great team that always provides the best service so it’s important that we’re constantly refreshing their training.”

For more information on accessibility for passengers on NorthLink Ferries, you can visit www.northlinkferries.co.uk/

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