The Lough Ree ‘Access For All’ boat has been officially launched in Ballyleague-Lanesboro and has already been hailed as ‘life-changing’ by wheelchair users.
The boat is designed to allow easy access for wheelchair users and people with disabilities to the waterways of Ireland. The service is however open to all visitors to the area, with three daily boat trips adding a welcome boost to local tourism.
As reported in the Roscommon People last November, the boat was built in Talinn and is the first licensed passenger boat of its kind in Britain and Ireland. It can carry up to eight wheelchair users plus crew per sailing. Each sailing lasts two hours and twenty minutes.
The boat was the brainchild of long term volunteer Alan Broderick, who witnessed the continuous struggle that wheelchair users encountered.
Alan said: “This was borne out of wanting people with disabilities to feel included, equal and independent and to focus on their abilities and not their disabilities. There are 31,000 wheelchair users in Ireland and we hope that each person will visit and experience what we have to offer over the coming years”.
The ‘Access For All’ project received significant backing in January with financial and business advisory support from DPD (Dynamic Parcel Distribution) Ireland.
Des Travers, Chief Executive of DPD Ireland, said the company is “very proud” to be involved with the venture and committed to helping further.
The boat design took six years to complete and involved consultation with wheelchair users and members of the Irish Wheelchair Association and Independent Living Moving.
Wheelchair user, James Cawley of Independent Living Movement Ireland, described it as a “trail-blazing project which allows disabled people to participate in a recreational activity like no other”.
The boat currently has reduced capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, it is available for prior booking for special one-day excursions to the islands of Lough Ree, where experienced guides will take passengers on tours of the ruins of Inchcleraun and the medieval village of Rindoon on the Roscommon shoreline.
The vessel operates a seven-day service in high summer as well as an all year round service, with trained staff accredited by Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Department of Transport Marine Survey Office.
The project is supported by POBAL, the Department of Rural & Community Affairs, Roscommon Integrated Development Company under the EU Leader programme, Waterways Ireland, Sliabh Bawn community funds, and Inland Fisheries Ireland.
Enquiries can be made to 043-3321734 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bookings can be made through the website www.loughreeboattrips.com.