Yachtsman Geoff Holt, who uses a wheelchair, has carried out the official opening of a Changing Places accessible toilet at Wightlink’s car ferry terminal in Portsmouth.
With support from the Department for Transport Maritime Accessibility Fund, the ferry company has installed the facility at its port in Gunwharf Road. The Changing Places toilet gives disabled children and adults the confidence to embark on ferry travel to the Isle of Wight, knowing their needs can be met before the sailing. A hoist and shower are included in the well-equipped room, which is open 24 hours a day. Another Changing Places toilet is being built on Ryde Pier, home of Wightlink’s FastCat foot passenger service from Portsmouth.
Department for Transport Maritime Minister Baroness Vere says: “Wightlink is leading by example to ensure those with disabilities are able to travel in confidence and comfort.
“Our Maritime Accessibility Fund was designed so ports, harbours, hoverports and ferry or hovercraft operators can make their services more accessible, and I’m delighted our funding is being used to do just that.”
Yachtsman Geoff Holt MBE knows Portsmouth Harbour well. He founded WetWheels Solent at Gunwharf Quays, close to Wightlink’s terminal. It supports disabled and disadvantaged people of all ages to enjoy boating. This opportunity to get on the water broadens aspirations, increases confidence and directly impacts on health and wellbeing.
“I welcome the installation of Wightlink’s impressive accessible toilet as I know more disabled people and their families will want to travel when you remove barriers,” says Geoff. “Portsmouth should be proud that several Changing Places toilets are now being installed in the city. It’s setting an example for other places to follow.”
Wightlink Chief Executive Keith Greenfield says: “We were delighted to welcome Geoff Holt to our terminal to perform the opening ceremony. He is a powerful advocate for more opportunities for disabled people and his charity has already supported thousands of people to enjoy the excitement of powerboating.
“Wightlink is grateful to the Department for Transport for helping to finance these Changing Places toilets. This is part of Wightlink’s wider programme to improve how we support our disabled customers. Accessible ticket machines are on order, we are making car parking easier and audits are being carried out on all the company’s systems and facilities.”
Wightlink commissioned specialist company Astor Bannerman to install the Changing Places toilet at its Portsmouth port. It has already installed hundreds of the facilities around the country and is now at work on Wightlink’s second Changing Places toilet on Ryde Pier.
Astor Bannerman’s Managing Director Mark Colebrook adds: “As the leading UK manufacturer of Changing Places equipment, we are proud to have installed this new Changing Places toilet, and to be working on its sister on the Isle of Wight. They both include the latest innovative equipment, designed specifically for Changing Places toilets.”