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Making Northlink Ferries as accessible as possible for passengers with additional support needs

In Scotland, we operate the Northern Isles Ferry Service, Northlink Ferries, providing scheduled lifeline passenger and freight services to the Northern Isles. Our Northlink Ferries colleagues embrace their role in supporting local communities, and this includes making the service as accessible as possible for all passengers.

“We are committed to making our facilities as welcoming as possible to everyone in the community,” says Stuart Garrett, Managing Director NorthLink Ferries. “As well as supporting those people with disabilities living on the islands, we want to open up opportunities for more people to be able to visit some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland.”

Since being awarded the Northern Isles Ferry Service Contract in 2012, but particularly over the last three years, the NorthLink team have increased their focus on improving accessibility through a number of different initiatives. For example:

  • implementing new software to enable more people to experience the NorthLink website in ways suitable to their needs, including text-to-speech translation for visually impaired users;
  • introducing a new free ‘Welcome’ app that enables passengers to make staff aware of their specific accessibility requirements before arrival;
  • completing special disability awareness training in which staff experienced simulations of various forms of disability. Carolyn Griffiths of training provider Access Panel Orkney said: “The aim was to let staff experience disabilities first-hand so they can empathise with passengers’ needs. It’s great to see a company like Serco NorthLink Ferries take accessibility for passengers seriously.”
  • hosting a workshop with Making Connections, an initiative that brings disabled people together with transport operators to explore how travel connections can be made easier; and
  • we have introduced specially-designed ‘Changing Places’ toilets for passengers with complex disabilities through our partnership with PAMIS (Promoting A More Inclusive Society). Jenny Miller, Chief Executive Officer of PAMIS said: “We’ve been very impressed with the commitment and consideration shown in developing Changing Places toilets on their ferries.”

Seumas Campbell, Customer Service Director at NorthLink, said: “Catering for passengers with varying degrees of disability is an important part of our service. We believe that passengers should experience a service that caters to all their needs.”