The word ‘accessible’ gets bandied around a little too willy nilly for my liking. So, when I heard that a Tall Ship, which was specifically designed to be fully accessible for people with disabilities, was arriving into Sydney, I just had to take a look. We headed to the Australian National Maritime Museum to see the visiting ship, Tenacious, and we were impressed by the extensive accessible features. Tenacious is an accessible tall ship which offers day tours and longer voyages for people of all abilities.
Tenacious took nine months to travel the nearly 29,000km (18,000 mile) voyage from the UK, sailing with a crew of 40 people, around half of whom are living with disabilities. Tenacious is owned and operated by The Jubilee Sailing Trust, a UN-accredited charity that has led the way on the issue of social inclusion for nearly forty years. The ship is the largest operative wooden ship in the world (at 65 metres and with a mast height of 39 metres) and was built in 2000 by 1.500 volunteers, including many with disability.
The specially designed features of the ship allow everyone, regardless of disability to play a full and active role as a member of crew. The entire vessel is wheelchair accessible INCLUDING the platforms up to the mast and bowsprit (pointy bit at the front of the ship for people like me! See photo below of BJ on the bowsprit).
Let me take you on a tour of this truly accessible tall ship.
ACCESSIBLE FEATURES ABOVE DECK
Lifts allow crew members with a disability to access all levels of the ship without need to use the steep stairs.
It was the first time BJ has been able to explore a tall ship and he was pretty happy about it.
Tenacious is a great example of what can be achieved when inclusion is part of the design and planning of a project.
The decks have small raised pieces of wood to act as a guide for visually impaired crew members (see photo above) and tie down points to secure wheelchairs.
Ships usually have a large step to get inside but Tenacious has lowered doorways and ramped entry. In rough seas the ramp is removed and the door closed.
Secured flip down seats allow crew members with restricted mobility to be seated while working the ropes. Even a talking compass is located on the bridge for people with a hearing impairment.
ACCESS BELOW DECK
Nothing changes when you head below deck. Everything has been designed with access and inclusion in mind.
BJ was delighted to be able to head below deck and check out the crew’s living and sleeping quarters.
Hoists are available for crew members who need to transfer from their wheelchair to the bunk. The bunk above is on a pulley system which allows it to be raised while the person is transferred.
The bathroom is accessible with a flip down shower seat, hand held shower head, rails throughout and lever taps.
Light switches are made for easy access.
Signage is in braille to assist vision impaired crew members.
Vibrating pads are located under the mattress of any hearing impaired crew members which are used if the alarm is used in an emergency.
There is medical assistance on each voyage – either a nurse or doctor on board.
I spoke with one wheelchair user who was a crew member on the voyage from Fiji to Sydney and asked her about her experience. She was enthusiastic and assured me she had been involved all the way including scrubbing the decks. This is not token inclusion, this is true inclusion at work.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Power chairs cannot go on Tenacious due to the weight and size. Guests needing assistance with personal care need to travel with their own buddy. Guests not needing this assistance will be matched with a buddy for the voyage.
Tenacious does day tours and longer voyages. Over the next 10 months she will be a regular visitor to the Australian National Maritime Museum as she embarks on voyages to Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart and Geelong. The public will be able to visit the ship later in the year when it returns to Sydney.
In the meantime check out the voyages available around the world here.
What do you think? Would you like to give sailing a go?