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It’s everyone’s journey
It’s everyone’s journey is a communications campaign developed by the Department for Transport in association with disability, transport and charity partners. The campaign aims to improve public transport experience for disabled people by creating a more considerate and supportive travel environment.
The campaign will raise awareness of the scale of disability amongst public transport users and encourage simple actions travellers can take to make travel easier for the one in five disabled people in the UK.
It’s everyone’s journey works across all transport modes to share infrastructure improvements and promote training and accreditation initiatives that can help ensure that disabled people have the same access to transport as everyone else.
About this toolkit
Transport is at the heart of how we live today and, while most people have good access to public transport, disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility can still face difficulties in accessing the transport system.
This toolkit provides industry with a high level guide on how operators can comply with passenger rights regulations. It also makes recommendations on how maritime transport can be made more accessible, all designed to make journeys better for disabled passengers and staff. It aims to highlight the challenges disabled people can face in travelling by sea, whether their disabilities are visible or non-visible. Staff need to be trained in providing assistance to all disabled passengers including those with non-visible disabilities.
In this toolkit the term ‘disabled passenger’ will be used to refer to all passengers with a visible or non-visible disability.
Just like everyone else, disabled people need to be able to travel to work, access healthcare, meet friends and family and enjoy leisure pursuits. Disabled people form a large customer base within the economy with an annual spending power of £249 billion.
This toolkit covers the whole journey experience, from accessing information at the booking stage through to arriving at the final destination. It is aimed primarily at operators in England and Wales however it will be useful for operators across the UK. Operators in Scotland may also wish to consult the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS) toolkit on improving accessibility at ferry terminals which we have referred to in creating this toolkit. As well as covering some of the same topics addressed in this toolkit the MACS document provides insight into a number of topics specific to Scottish ferry operators.
Inclusive Transport Strategy
The Inclusive Transport Strategy (ITS) was published in July 2018 and builds on the responses received to the 2017 consultation on a draft Accessibility Action Plan. It sets out the government’s ambition for disabled people to have the same access to transport as everyone else, to be able to travel confidently, easily and at no extra cost. The ITS commits government to a set of specific actions to improve accessible transport across all transport modes. Within the ITS, households with a disabled member in them are identified as having a spending power of £249 billion in 2014 to 2015 and, as the population ages, this spending power is likely to increase.
Current Maritime Passenger Rights Regulation
Maritime transport already benefits from comprehensive passengers rights regulation and this is enforced by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). As part of the ITS commitments, MCA’s enforcement regime has been reviewed to understand where procedures can be strengthened and improved and these have been implemented.
The current rules apply to passenger journeys starting or ending in the UK and provide the right to assistance for disabled and reduced mobility passengers as well as the right to rerouting, reimbursement or compensation in certain circumstances (UK Regulation applies to most journeys by sea but does not apply to vessels which carry up to 12 passengers or have a crew of 3 or less. It also does not apply where the journeys is 500 metres or less or on excursion or sightseeing tours).
Some of the recommendations in the ITS build on legislative requirements. For example, including improved staff training, ensuring audio and visual announcements are made on vessels, improved availability of parking close to port terminals and the provision of Changing Places facilities. Regulatory requirements are clearly identified in this toolkit. Industry are encouraged to provide these additional, non-regulatory services to assist disabled passengers. The recommendations made below may not be extensive or expensive and many are simple to implement but they can make a huge difference to disabled passengers’ journeys.
MCA passenger survey
At the end of 2018 the MCA carried out its first annual survey to gauge the experience of disabled passengers when travelling by sea. The results were used to inform the recommendations made in this toolkit. Some key findings are summarised below:
- overall, the results showed that just over half of disabled passengers were satisfied with the experience they had when travelling by sea
- disabled passengers with a non-visible disability were generally less satisfied than passengers who have a visible disability
- disabled passengers with the highest satisfaction level were also the most likely to want to travel by ferry more often in the next 12 months
- passengers who were fully aware of their rights are around 3 times more likely to be satisfied with their journey than those with no knowledge of their rights
- passengers were generally less satisfied with their experience on the ship than their experience during the booking process or boarding the ship
While there are positives to take from the survey there is also room for improvement. It is hoped that the recommendations outlined below will help operators to provide the best possible assistance to disabled passengers and lead to increased satisfaction in all aspects of their journeys.
Travelling by sea
Port terminal and vessel operators are required to consider the needs of disabled passengers throughout the whole travel process. This means considering the disabled passenger’s journey from the point of booking until they disembark.
Current regulations make clear that operators should give thought to what changes they can make or processes they can adopt to assist disabled passengers at all points of their journey. There is, however, no need to retrofit. This means that while port and vessel operators must take into account the needs of disabled passengers when building new infrastructure or carrying out a major refurbishment, they do not need to make existing facilities comply with regulation where this would require modification or replace ships, infrastructure, ports or port terminals.
The Regulation ensures operators must not refuse travel because of a passenger’s disability unless it is unsafe to carry the passenger. If passage is refused, the passenger can request an explanation in writing which the carrier must provide within five days. In addition, disabled passengers must not be charged any more than any other passenger for their ticket. Ferry passengers who require a carer to assist them on the voyage will not be charged for the ticket for the carer to travel. Passengers booking journeys need to make this requirement clear to avoid being charged for both tickets. The right not be charged for the carers ticket does not, however, apply to carers accompanying cruise passengers.
Booking systems must be accessible to all passengers. It is important to remember that some passengers will not be able to use either the internet or telephone so alternative methods of contact should be provided such as textphone or SMS messaging. In addition to booking, the complaints system should also be clear and fully accessible.
Disabled passengers are advised to notify their assistance requirements prior to travel – either at the time of booking or at least 48 hours before travel. If notification is not given or given less than 48 hours before travel, carriers must still make all reasonable effort to accommodate them. Operators should make passengers aware of this advance notice when they make their booking and all passengers should be notified of their rights at the time of booking.
Arriving at the port terminal
Operators must designate an assistance point inside or outside the port terminal at which disabled passengers (on foot and by car) can announce their arrival and request assistance. The point should be clearly signposted and operators should aim to give details of this point when a request for assistance is given in advance of travel.
When a passenger arrives at the contact point, staff should enquire in a sensitive manner as to the assistance required. Operators should remember the need for assistance may not be immediately obvious.
The Inclusive Transport Strategy included a non-regulatory commitment to encourage the greater use of assistance cards across the transport network, and this is in the early stages of development. Assistance cards allow disabled passengers who require assistance to discreetly request help from transport staff and their fellow passengers. Passengers with non-visible disabilities may find the scheme particularly helpful. The aspiration is to develop a scheme which operates across England and Wales, integrating with existing schemes, and across all transport modes. There are already examples of individual businesses using lanyards or badges to subtly identify those who may require additional assistance and operators are encouraged to consider the introduction of such a scheme. DfT can offer advice to operators considering the introduction of such a scheme (The lanyard system has been employed with success in both airports and retail stores).
When designating a contact point and procedure, it is recommended that operators should take into account that disabled passengers may be foot passengers or be travelling with a vehicle of which they may be the passenger or driver. If car parking is provided, spaces for disabled passengers should be as close to the terminal building as possible. In addition, the space should allow sufficient room for a wheelchair user to exit and enter the car. Passengers vehicles may include exit/entrances on the side or rear so parking spaces need to be able to accommodate these designs. Passengers will find it helpful to be given information on long stay parking facilities either offered by the port or close by it.
Additionally, if the port is connected to another transport mode such as a coach or train station, operators are encouraged to voluntarily work with their counterparts in other transport modes to ensure disabled passengers have a safe and straightforward transfer. Operators are encouraged to make the journey between the port and other transport modes as flat and easy to navigate as possible. All passengers will benefit from signs being clear, well-lit and easy to read in locations that help passengers find their way.
Operators should ensure that, where seating is provided there is designated seating for those disabled passengers that wish to use it while waiting to board. In designating seating for disabled passengers, operators should take into account that disabled passengers may be travelling as part of a group and make arrangements for the disabled passenger to remain with their travelling party in so far as possible. Port terminal operators should also consider providing Changing Places facilities although there is currently no legal requirement to do so (Changing Places toilets are adapted for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets. Changing Places have more space and the right equipment, including a height adjustable changing bench and a hoist).
Ports can be busy and confusing places, especially at the point of boarding. Passengers should be made aware of the process for boarding so that they know what to expect. Announcements should be made in audio and visual formats. If the port is not managed by the same operator as the vessel then there should be a clear understanding of where the responsibility for assistance will switch from port to vessel staff when boarding.
Operators should make plans for disabled passengers when things go wrong. This includes emergency procedures, such as building evacuations, and procedures for when voyages are delayed or cancelled as additional assistance may be required. For example, operators should give thought to the accessibility of transport arrangements to accommodation that the operator may be required to provide in case of journey cancellation.
The Regulation requires assistance to be provided when boarding the ship. This includes assisting the disabled passenger to check in, pass through any security points and embark the ship.
Operators should give special consideration to the physical barriers which may affect disabled passengers when boarding a ship. Adaptions such as tactile paving can be used to alert visually impaired passengers to crossings and steps. Access to vessels should be as level as possible with any gradients suitable for wheelchairs and, where possible, covered from the elements. If there is a distance between the port and the vessel, the operator should consider the need for ‘rest seating’ and provide seating every 50 metres. Seating for passengers is extremely important, as many people find standing for more than a few minutes uncomfortable or impossible. As a general rule, seating must be clean, comfortable, easy to get in and out of and freely available and should be near to entrances, travel information, toilets and other facilities and should be clearly marked.
Tide movements, changes in weather and berthing of the vessel all effect the distance between the vessel and the slipway or harbour. Consideration should be given to minimise the effect of these occurrences for disabled passengers boarding a vessel.
If a disabled passenger is travelling by vehicle and have indicated they have mobility issues they should be given a parking space which will minimise their journey to the passenger deck and as close as possible to any lifts in operation. Where necessary the vehicle space provided should allow enough space for wheelchair users to exit their vehicle.
Disabled passengers continue to be entitled to assistance on board the ship. The regulation guarantees assistance to retrieve luggage and to get to seats or cabins. Operators must also provide help to get to toilet facilities but are not required to provide passengers with assistance in using the toilet. Ferry companies may wish to consider providing assistance to disabled passengers who need help to access refreshment facilities. If a passenger needs such assistance they should be accompanied by someone who can help them. Where a carer is required by a passenger and this is a condition of booking by the operator, the accompanying person is entitled to travel for free on ferries (but not cruises). Passengers need to request the free additional ticket for a carer at the time of booking. Ports and vessel operators are encouraged to consider the installation of Changing Place toilet facilities.
At the end of the journey the operator must provide assistance in disembarking the ship. This includes retrieving baggage, help to proceed through customs and immigration, if any, and assistance to arrive at a designated point of exit. In designating the point of exit, if different from the arrival contact point, operators should give consideration to factors such as the distance from the vessel, seating and ease of onward travel. Operators are required to provide wheelchair assistance if required by a passenger.
Connection to other transport modes
As noted above, operators are encouraged to give special consideration to connections with other transport modes such as coach or train. Connections between port terminals and other transport modes can be stressful for all passengers and those who are disabled can experience additional issues.
Disabled passengers have reported finding that there can be an area where there is no assistance between their journey by sea and their connecting journey. Operators are strongly encouraged to cooperate in these instances so that passengers can receive assistance that is joined up and seamless. Clear, well-lit and easy to read signage between connecting journeys will help all passengers. Operators should aim to provide passengers with up to date information on inter-connectivity with other transport at the time of booking and on their web sites.
Customer service and interfacing
The Regulation requires staff to be given regularly refreshed, quality training in helping disabled passengers. This requirement extends to contractors and temporary staff. Training should involve disabled people in both design and delivery. It must include but is not limited to assisting people with different disabilities, the difficulties disabled passengers may face and the role and needs of assistance dogs. Staff should be equipped to identify the needs of different passengers, including those with non-visible disabilities, and react appropriately to unexpected circumstances.
In designing staff training, terminal and vessel operators are required to seek the help of local disabled groups who can visit facilities to test accessibility provisions. This will allow real users of the service with lived experience of disability to make recommendations for improvements. It is crucial to ensure that this advice covers physical and non-physical as well as visible and non-visible disabilities. The Department for Transport can help to put operators in contact with local disabled groups.
Signage and information
As noted above, good signage and information provided to passengers will make journeys easier for all passengers. Operators are encouraged to use innovative technology to enhance signage by, for example, delivering multi format signs. Technology may also offer more accessible messaging such as SMS (texts) and Bluetooth messages offering options to easily reach hearing and sight impaired passengers. When locating signs, care should be taken to make sure they are visible to wheelchair users and large enough to be read at a distance.
It is good practice for tannoy announcements to be repeated in visual format, such as on screens. This will be particularly beneficial for the hard of hearing. Alarms should also be both audible and visual to ensure all passengers are alerted in case of an emergency situation. Staff should be trained on how to communicate with all passengers during an emergency including on evacuation procedures for disabled passengers.
The Regulation requires both port terminals and vessels to have public notices on passenger rights and how to make a complaint on display and available in multiple formats. An example of a summary of passenger rights which could be used is included in the annex to this toolkit.
Noisy places can make travelling difficult for some passengers. While noise cannot be avoided the impacts can be mitigated by providing quiet rooms or areas in port terminals and on board ships. Operators should consider if and where they can provide quiet places and make these known to passengers. These facilities may be additionally beneficial to other passengers who prefer a quiet environment to travel in.
Making a complaint
Sometimes things can go wrong and it is important that all passengers are able to complain. Operators are encouraged to consider the additional barriers which some disabled passengers can face in making a complaint. As with booking, it is important to remember that some passengers will not be able to use either the internet or telephone so alternative methods of contact should be provided such as textphone or SMS (text) messaging.
Passengers should be told at the time of booking or any time requested by the passenger how they can make a complaint and when they can expect to receive a response. Operators are further encouraged to thoroughly review any complaints received and use these to inform and shape their staff training programme.
The complaint handling process in the UK
Maritime passengers in the UK benefit from a comprehensive complaint handling process (PDF, 250KB). If a passenger is unhappy with the service received they should complain to the operator within 2 months of the date of travel. Operators must acknowledge complaints within one month and provide a full reply within 2 months. Most complaints are settled by the operator at this stage.
If a passenger is not satisfied with the operator’s reply, they can refer their complaint to the relevant voluntary complaint handling body. Details of these bodies can be found at the end of the annex to this toolkit. If, after receiving the relevant complaint handling body’s findings, the passenger is still not satisfied with how their complaint has been handled they can refer their complaint to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency who are responsible for enforcement of maritime passenger rights regulations in the UK. The MCA will consider whether or not there has been a breach of the regulations. Operators may wish to offer passengers the option of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). In addition, nothing in the Regulation prevents a passenger from pursuing their claim in court.
This toolkit was designed to enable operators to both comply with the current legislation and identify areas in which they can go further. It is hoped that this toolkit has shown that making maritime transport more accessible need not be complicated. Small changes have the potential to have a huge impact on the lives of disabled passengers. We encourage operators to engage with the toolkit and support the government’s vision to make sure disabled people to have the same access to transport as everyone else and to be able to travel confidently and easily.
Further Advice and Information
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Department for Transport are always willing to provide additional information and advice on request:
Department for Transport
The Department for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
105 Commercial Road
Annex – example of a Passenger Rights Information Notice
Passenger Rights under the Merchant Shipping (Passengers’ Rights) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 when travelling by sea and inland waterway.
The regulation guarantees the non-discrimination of disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility when travelling by sea and inland waterways. The regulation also guarantees the rights of all passengers to receive assistance and, in some cases, compensation when their services are delayed or cancelled.
Your rights when your ferry is delayed or cancelled.
If your ferry or cruise is cancelled or its departure delayed by more than 90 minutes all passengers are entitled to:
- free snacks, meals or refreshments reasonable to the waiting time
- adequate overnight accommodation on board or ashore as well as transport free of charge to and from the accommodation ashore. Accommodation ashore is subject to a nightly maximum value of £70 and for up to 3 nights
If your ferry is cancelled or its departure delayed by more than 90 minutes all passengers must be offered the choice between:
- re-routing to your final destination, under comparable conditions, at the earliest opportunity at no extra cost
- re-imbursement of the ticket price and where relevant a return service free of charge to the first point of departure at the earliest opportunity
If your ferry is delayed in arriving at its final destination you may request compensation. The minimum level of compensation is 25% of the ticket price paid and is payable only where the ferry is delayed by at least:
- 1 hour in the case of a journey lasting up to 4 hours
- 2 hours in the case of a journey lasting more than 4 hours
- 3 hours in the case of a journey lasting more than 8 hours
- 6 hours in the case of a journey lasting more than 24 hours
You are not entitled to assistance or compensation where you were informed of the delay before you bought your ticket, the cancellation or delay is caused by your own fault or where the cancellation or delay is caused by weather conditions endangering the safe operation of the ship.
Merchant Shipping (Passengers’ Rights) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
The above rights are subject to certain exceptions under UK regulation, Merchant Shipping (Passengers’ Rights) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, full details of which can be obtained from the carrier or terminal operator.
In addition, the regulation does not apply to ships certified to carry 12 or less passengers, ships with 3 or fewer crew, voyages of 500 metres or less (one way) and excursion or sightseeing tours.
Disabled passengers’ rights
If you are a disabled person or a person with reduced mobility you have the right to assistance in ports and on board ships provided that you notify the carrier or the terminal operator at the time of booking or at the very latest at least 48 hours before the assistance is needed.
When informing the operator that you require assistance you should be specific about the type of help you need. Carriers may require that you are accompanied by a person capable of giving you any specialist assistance you require. On ferries, but not cruises, this person will be carried free of charge. The carrier must make all reasonable efforts to give the accompanying passenger a seat or a cabin next to you.
If you arrive for your journey without having given 48 hours’ notice, the carrier must still make all reasonable efforts to assist you but the assistance provided might not be to the normal level passengers can expect.
You can be refused travel only for reasons which are justified on the grounds of safety. If you are refused travel the carrier must make all reasonable efforts to propose acceptable alternative ferry or cruise service. Failing this, the carrier must offer to reimburse your ticket. If you request an explanation in writing, the carrier must provide this within 5 working days.
Usually, you will be required to present yourself at the port no later than 60 minutes before the published departure time although the operator may agree to a shorter time. On your arrival you can expect to be assisted by trained staff who can, if required, help you through check in and security and onto the ship. During the voyage staff can assist you to your seat or cabin, store and retrieve luggage and help you to the toilet facilities. On disembarkation, staff will help you with your luggage through any security checks and to the terminal exit.
You have the right to bring with you all necessary mobility equipment, including equipment such as electric wheelchairs. If your equipment is damaged or lost, compensation will be payable equal to the cost of repairing or replacing the equipment and carriers must make all reasonable efforts to provide you with a suitable replacement until repairs or replacements are provided. You should check with the vessel operator that any equipment you intend to take on board can be accommodated. Some vessels may not be able to carry large or heavy items.
You are allowed to travel with an assistance dog provided it has been trained by a recognised organisation and carriers may require evidence of training. This requirement is to prevent risk to other passengers. If you are travelling internationally, you may have to comply with further requirements regarding the import and export of animals. More information on bringing your pet to the UK and pet travel to Europe.
You have right to receive all information about your journey, including this notice, in an accessible format.
Making a complaint
If you are unhappy with the service you have received you should complain to the operator within 2 months of the date of travel. Operators must acknowledge your complaint within one month and provide you with a full reply within 2 months. If you are not satisfied with the operator’s reply, you can refer your complaint to the relevant voluntary complaint handling body. If, after contacting the relevant complaint handling body, you are still not satisfied with how your complaint has been handled you can refer your complaint to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency who enforce maritime passenger rights regulations across the UK.
Complaints can be made concerning the assistance disabled passengers receive from both port and vessel operators.
Further guidance on maritime passenger rights.
The contact details of the complaint handling bodies and MCA are:
For England and Wales cruise passengers (excluding services operated, contracted and/or licensed by Transport for London) contact Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) UK and Ireland.
CLIA UK and Ireland
Dowgate Hill House
14-16 Dowgate Hill
For England and Wales ferry passengers (excluding services operated, contracted and / or licensed by Transport for London) contact ABTA Ltd.
31 Park Street
For services operated, contracted and / or licensed by Transport for London contact London TravelWatch:
2 Royal Mint Court
For Scotland contact Transport for Scotland:
58 Port Dundas Road
For Northern Ireland contact Consumer Council for Northern Ireland:
Consumer Council for Northern Ireland
23-32 Alfred Street
The National Enforcement Body is the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA):
105 Commercial Road