Monday, September 22, 2008

On The Boat

I used to love taking the ferry from Vancouver over to the Island. Still do, albeit with more anxiety. A couple of times, since becoming a wheelchair user, we have almost had to stay in the car. They let the cars with a disabled sticker on first and try to park them near elevators. But then they pack cars around very tightly. Even chubby people have difficulty getting out.

Since arriving in Vancouver my mobility hasn't been great. I've been toppling over a bit more. So I'm being extra careful. When we got to the boat, we'd planned stuff for the car, like books and snacks, that we could do on the car if we couldn't board the boat. When we got there were were directed to drive down lane 1 (which was marked for Bowen Island) so we did. At the bottom of the lane was a guy who then asked us our need, we said, wheelchair and being able to open doors. He winkied. Winked. Then sent us to the disabled lane. They actually had a lane with the disabled symbol on it.

Just before boarding, he came to us and said, put your blinkers on. Follow my instructions, you will be loading up the ramp. Well, we drove up the ramp. We realized upon getting on the ferry, that this was one of the new boats we'd heard about. On top a woman, who'd been told of our arrival directed us to park right in front of the elevator. What was cool was that there were markings around the parking area that left room for doors. We and a couple of others, with the disabilty stickers easily parked and easily got out and onto the boat.

It was like someone had done some actual planning and said, "Let's figure out how to make travel simple and easy for people with diabilities." It was like the coroporation wanted to provide a welcoming atmosphere to all passengers. And, for one of the first times, included 'disability' in 'all'. We road up in a large elevator, large enough to fit two chairs, and then did a tour of the new boat. It was a beauty. The accessible washroom was indeed accessible. But so were the other parts of the boat.

It's amazing how a few little adaptions, thought about, fussed over, and made available, completely changes the life experience of another. I went that morning kind of worried if I'd be able to get upstairs, if I'd be able to watch the passage. Instead, worried left and I was able to simply at the wonder of the crossing.

I know I shouldn't feel grateful for having my rights and needs considered, but I do. And so did the other disabled folks who I saw on the boat, all looking a bit shell shocked.

What this means, of course, is this company did it. It means that other companies, other corporations, actively decide not to ...

actively decide not to...

But for now, from this fairy to that ferry ... Good on you.

6 comments:

lina said...

'actively decide not to', then its up to all of us to change that. Good for this company for doing this! Glad to hear you are having a good trip.

Cynthia said...

Love hearing about what a good experience this was for you. Planning for accessibility really makes life easier for everyone. I wish it was automatic that building plans were really made for all. If the designers lived one day in a chair, I think design would change a lot faster.

Scott Rains said...

A friend pointed me to this post. Timely, I was just up in Vancouver meeting about tourism and disability with staff from their 2010 Legacies Now (2010 Winter Olympics) project.

You might be interested in the Waypoint-Backstrom Principles on design for boats and docks at ebility.com in Australia:

http://www.e-bility.com/articles/maritime-inclusive-environments.php

Shan said...

Yes, I always notice things are not accessible at all on the older vessels - an example would be those gigantic ledges leading into the bathrooms. I guess those are probably there for a reason - an old 'seaworthy' reason likely, something to do with bulkheads - but they make life difficult for people. Even I have stumbled over them, never mind small children, the elderly, and of course anyone in a wheelchair.

theknapper said...

So glad to hear BC ferries gets it!!!!

sandy said...

Your blog is one of my first reads everyday..check first to see how my children and grandchildren are as they are scattered across the globe (thanks heavens for the internet) then I proceed to your blog. It seems that it helps to set my mood for the day.Today's news is encouraging and I will surely mention it as I go about my day. It is also my fathers 89th birthday. He worked, as I do now, at a center that serves people with disabilities. He and I often reflect about what has changed and what has not in our field during the past 40 plus years. Reminds me of knappers comment today "He gets it" and I strive everyday to do the same. I hope everyone finds a reason to CELEBRATE something today....the ferry companies in BC, a friend or relatives birthday or if no other reason Celebrate who you are and what you believe in....