A woman whose husband was told that she could not board a cruise ship at Liverpool, England, has me thinking. The woman has a disability and was denied access because she could not leave her wheelchair to board her ship.
When her husband tried to book the cruise, he was informed that the port of Liverpool doesn’t have equipment to assist people in wheelchairs. So, he was told that he could not book a place for his wife on the cruise.
Ann Fisher and her husband had wanted to travel on a seven-night Emerald Isle cruise with the Fred Olsen line. But that plan sank when Fred Olsen said she had to leave her wheelchair and get up the gangway steps alone.
Mrs Fisher, a retired lecturer, had twice cruised with Fred Olsen from Liverpool. Now, though, a port policy change means she and her wheelchair have been left high and dry.
Speaking to cruise.co.uk, she said: “It’s quite devastating. I wouldn’t consider going from another port because of the travelling involved.”
Also, she wonders why she was able to cruise without hassle in the past, despite her disability: “It was so easy when we did it before. We got a taxi to Liverpool, and were in our cabin just over an hour from leaving home. It was ideal for someone like me who finds it difficult to travel.”
Liverpool port lacks wheelchair facilities
Her husband John Fisher confirmed that Ann’s disability had previously not been a problem. He said: “We were able to enjoy two Fred Olsen cruises from Liverpool in 2013 and 2014, occupying a wheelchair-adapted cabin.
“Access to and from the ship was easily accomplished. Four sturdy members of the crew lifted my wife’s wheelchair at the corners. Her chair is lightweight, as is she.”
A Fred Olsen spokesman said there is neither an overhead bridge nor a sloped gangway at the Port of Liverpool. As such, the company is restricted from assisting guests, who are fully confined to a wheelchair, to board ships.
I can sympathise with the Fishers but also with Fred Olsen. After all, health and safety regulations would not allow staff to manually lift a wheelchair and its occupant. It wouldn’t be safe for the occupant or the staff. Whatever happened in the past is irrelevant as it is no longer allowed. Period.
What does puzzle me is why the Port of Liverpool doesn’t have facilities to ensure people with disabilities have access. It is the 21st century, the UK’s Disability Discrimination Act requires companies to provide access for disabled people. Liverpool’s cruise terminal in only 10 years old. For it not to have such facilities is an absolute disgrace. Shame on you, Liverpool. It needs sorting out, NOW.
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.