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NorthLink invests in accessible loos

NorthLink has introduced Changing Places facilities on two of its vessels. From the left: Jenny Whinnett carer, Liam Thom, Jenny Miller chief executive of PAMIS and Stuart Garrett, managing director of Serco NorthLink.

Serco NorthLink has announced plans to enhance accessibility onboard its vessels, with the introduction of fully-equipped “changing places” toilets.

It is believed that the company will be the first UK ferry operator to invest in the new loos, which will be in addition to standard disabled toilets.

Passengers with complex disabilities and their carers can now use specially designed facilities aboard both Aberdeen and Shetland ferries. The move is a result of a partnership with the organisation PAMIS (Promoting A More Inclusive Society) which campaigns for these facilities, and has been supported by Transport Scotland.

The move comes as a result of research highlighting that 230,000 people in the UK need such special assistance and facilities. Users include people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and people with a range of other disabilities including Cerebral Palsy, Motor Neurone disease, Multiple Sclerosis, stroke, some older people and other specific disabilities.

The requirements are set out in British Standards, and include:

  • Extra space to accommodate a disabled person, their wheelchair and one or two carers
  • An adult-sized, height-adjustable changing bench
  • A hoist
  • A centrally-placed toilet

The new toilets are already open on deck six of MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey, and will be available on board MV Hamnavoe by the end of the year.

“This investment is another sign of our commitment to making our facilities as welcoming as possible to everyone in the community,” said Stuart Garrett, managing director at Serco NorthLink Ferries.

“It will open up opportunities for many people with disabilities and their familes to visit some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. It also supports those living on the islands when travelling to and from the mainland for leisure and essential healthcare.”

The move is the latest in a series of measures aimed at improving journeys for all travelers. Earlier this month the company became the first Scottish transport operator to introduce the pioneering Neatebox support service. This followed improvements to the NorthLink website, disability awareness training for staff, and a new partnership with a sign language interpreting agency.

Mum and carer Jenny Whinnet, who helped to start the PAMIS campaign 20 years ago, said: “This is an exciting development for families and carers.

“It permits people who need these facilities to travel further afield confidently and with dignity. This is very different to the early years of this campaign, when it was so difficult for me to travel with my son Craig because there were no Changing Places toilets available.”

Jenny Miller, Chief Executive Officer of PAMIS added: “We’ve been very impressed with the commitment and consideration shown by Serco NorthLink Ferries in developing changing places toilets on their ferries.

“They have really listened to the stories from the families and people we work with and who feel excluded from so many activities that we all take for granted. We’re delighted that the Orkney and Shetland ferries will be the first in the country, and possibly the world, to have a Changing Places toilet.”

Paul Wheelhouse, minister for energy, connectivity and the islands is pleased to see the new facilities up and running.

He said: “This type of improvement is exactly why we set up the Ferries Accessibility Fund.

“We know accessible travel not only enables people to enjoy equal access to our beautiful country, but it also enables people to fully participate in society and improve the quality of their lives, so we want to continue to identify and remove any disabling barriers which prevent people from making journeys or lead to them having an unpleasant time on board.

“It’s very important that Scotland’s ferry services are fully accessible, offering the best passenger experience possible to everyone and this targeted investment marks very welcome progress on that journey.”

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