Isle of Wight ferry access spoiled wheelchair user’s holiday

Isle of Wight ferry access spoiled wheelchair user's holiday

A wheelchair-user who holidayed on the Isle of Wight feels “discouraged” from wanting to come again, after he was ‘humiliatingly ejected’ from a Wightlink ferry.

This article first appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press – Isle of Wight ferry access spoiled wheelchair user’s holiday

Terry Holt said his holiday was “wonderful” but was “spoiled” when he was twice told to get out of his car, despite following Wightlink’s policy, and contacting the firm 48 hours in advance.

Wightlink has told the County Press the final decision over whether passengers can stay in their vehicles is made by the master of each ship, on the day of travel and “is always made on safety grounds”.

Mainlander Terry Holt has a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

He visited with his wife, Sylvia, at the end of July into August 2023 and their experience left them wondering how disabled people can travel to the Island.

The couple first encountered issues when they travelled from Portsmouth, on board the St Clare.

Despite an advance request to remain in their car, ferry staff told Terry and Sylvia they could not.

After failed attempts to get Terry into a wheelchair and in a lift to the passenger lounge, he was eventually allowed to remain in the vehicle.

Read more: We asked public transport operators what measures they have in place for those with reduced mobility

To avoid a repeat on the way back, the couple contacted Wightlink days in advance of their departure.

They arrived for their Victoria of Wight sailing 90 minutes early, as advised and were told to wait in a queue.

As they boarded, Terry, who was 79 at the time, was again asked to get out of his car.

“I said ‘we’ve requested to stay’ and they said ‘we can’t do that’,” Terry said.

“They had a word with the skipper who said ‘no we’re not taking them’.

“I was then humiliatingly ejected from the ferry.”

After another wait – and an interview with another captain, this time onboard St Clare – Terry and Sylvia were eventually allowed to travel in their car.

They remember being worried about getting back home and the experience left them questioning whether they will come back.

“If I book 48 hours in advance, as told, I expect to be able to stay in the car”, Terry said.

“It is difficult for someone like me, on a wet deck, to get out of my car and into a wheelchair.”

Sylvia, 74, said: “If they’re reporting to be disabled-friendly and they’re not, this is a major stigma for the Island.”

The couple later complained to Wightlink but said the issue was ‘dismissed’ with an apology.

A Wightlink spokesperson confirmed the ferry firm had contacted Mr Holt.

The spokesperson said: “While customers with mobility issues may request to stay in their vehicles during their crossing, Wightlink cannot guarantee it.

“The master of the ship will carry out a risk assessment on the day of travel and their decision is always made on safety grounds.

“Wightlink complies with all legal requirements surrounding accessible travel.”

Terry Holt
Terry Holt - Image: Terry Holt

The firm says it offers a wide range of support for disabled passengers, details of which can be found on its website.

Meanwhile, Red Funnel told us it asks passengers who want to stay in their vehicles to notify them at last 48 hours in advance.

It provides designated ‘stay in vehicle’ crossings and in some cases can allow up to four vehicles to cross the Solent with passengers inside.

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