When priority for wheelchair users actually means first come first served — Scope | Disability forum
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When priority for wheelchair users actually means first come first served

axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
Brittany Ferries stated policy on their website is that wheelchair users get priority for booking the very limited number of accessible cabins available on their ships, though people with other disabilities may also book subject to the proviso that they may be asked to move to a different cabin. We live in the West Country and the family home is on the west coast of France, so realistically, Brittany are our only ferry option.
Their actual policy is that whoever books the cabin first gets it, regardless of whether they have any disability at all. Since the accessible cabins are known to be bigger than standard ones and they're usually at least £10 cheaper, guess what happens? I've actually had one couple complain to my face that I had taken their preferred cabin, the nice big one next to the lift that's really cheap. Whilst they could have had hidden disabilities, they didn't appear disabled walking up the stairs when the lift took too long to arrive, certainly weren't in wheelchairs and didn't have a disabled sticker on their car, and had not a clue as to why them taking one of the only two accessible cabins on that particular ship might be a problem.
Cruise ships have been insisting on proof of need before allocating accessible cabins for years because of this same problem. Whilst I'm not keen on having to prove my disability to anyone, trying to book ferry crossings with a cabin I can use is getting frustrating to say the least. We usually book well in advance, but even then accessible cabins can be hard to find and booking well in advance isn't always possible, especially at the moment.
It isn't difficult to work out that on most crossings (we do approximately 10 a year) there are only 2 wheelchair users on board at most because wheelchair users get their own separate queue for boarding (even apart from the rest of the 'disabled' travellers) and a big sticker on their car so that they're easily identifiable by the boarding staff. In many cases however, all the accessible cabins have been taken and we're stuck sitting in the often very noisy and crowded bar for the entire crossing because I don't fit anywhere else. On overnight crossings we have to book an ordinary cabin and I then have to negotiate very narrow corridors whilst other passengers wait in side aisles for me to pass (or try to step over me, thankfully not so many of them), my poor husband has to fold and lug the chair around because it won't go through the door, and I have to drag myself over quite a deep step to get into the bathroom, fortunately provided with plenty of handrails for when it's a bit rough.
The Equality Act still doesn't apply to ferries, if it did I'd be arguing with Brittany that what they're doing amounts to the same thing as allowing a pushchair to occupy the wheelchair space on a bus. The pushchair could be folded and moved elsewhere but the wheelchair user has no choice about where they sit so denying them that space amounts to denying them travel.
Sorry about the rant, in these times I'm sure people have much more important things to worry about, but I'm cross because they've done it again and their staff won't even consider asking non-wheelchair users to move to an alternative cabin if they can and there are no accessible cabins for three weeks before we needed to travel (for a previously postponed family wedding) so we're going to miss it.


  • ross2503
    ross2503 Member Posts: 90 Pioneering
    edited July 2020
    Hey @axwy62

    Sorry to hear about this situation. There's no need to apologise for ranting, it's clearly a very important issue. 

    If their policy states that somebody booking the room may be asked to move to a different cabin if required, have you tried pointing that specific policy out to them on the occasions where the accessible rooms have been taken up by people who aren't disabled? It shouldn't have to come to that though to be honest, but if they are clearly ignoring their own policy then that's an issue.

    You seem to travel very often so you'd think this particular company would be adept at accommodating your needs by now. 

    I'm sorry to hear you will miss the wedding, have you complained to them about your repeated experiences? 
  • axwy62
    axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    I gave up complaining to Brittany Ferries a long time ago, it achieves nothing positive and the bottom line is we need them more than they need me.
    I sent them a screen shot of their policy when politely asking (for the first time, I might add, mostly we just manage but husband already has a bad back atm) that they see if another passenger can move. They said no. 
    They've had tens of thousands of pounds and euros of mine and my family's money over the years and we're all travel club members but loyalty apparently means nothing.
    If I could, I'd use a different service not least because Brittany's crossings are quite long and I get terribly seasick, but driving the length of the south coast to get to the tunnel or the short crossings then driving all the way back again the other side is not practical, and neither is flying and hiring a van, I have too much stuff that needs to travel with me.
  • ross2503
    ross2503 Member Posts: 90 Pioneering
    Ah okay, sorry to hear that. Sounds like they're not accommodating at all. I suppose they'll just fall back on what you mentioned in your opening post, that they're not covered by the Equality Act so from their point of view they don't have to do anything different. Seems like a massive hole in that piece of legislation if you ask me. 
  • axwy62
    axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    Thank you for commenting.
    I consider myself more able than most to challenge these sort of issues, but I sometimes get so tired of it. I just want to live my life and, within reason, do what everyone else just takes for granted without having to argue about it. I guess the only way to get things to change is to keep naming and shaming those companies that don't want my money. 

  • janer1967
    janer1967 Member Posts: 15,071 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi and thank you for sharing this with us and making other members aware.

    I am also a wheelchair user though I havent been on a ferry since becoming disabled it is useful information. I am hoping to go on a cruise in the next few years and it does worry me how accessable 
  • axwy62
    axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    I’ve heard cruises can be really good for accessibility, enjoy!
  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,557 Disability Gamechanger
    Thank you for sharing this @axwy62. Some really good points and I'm sorry about the lack of access!


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