Wheelchairs on the water

A brand new wheelchair accessible powerboat is soon to be launched by not-for-profit charity Local Solutions at their Liverpool Watersports Centre.

This will be the first fully accessible powerboat at the centre, strengthening existing provisions for people with disabilities. The two charities, the Wheelyboat Trust and Local Solutions are working together to provide people with mobility impairments with the ability to participate fully in water-based activities at this centre.

The new Coulam V20 Wheelyboat, has been named ‘Sir Bert Massie’ after the renowned disability rights campaigner and long standing trustee of Local Solutions.

Local Solutions’ Watersports Centre is in the process of developing its facilities specifically for people with disabilities to boost well-being, self-esteem and skills. The combined successful fundraising of £33,220 by Local Solutions and the Wheelyboat Trust with the support from Sports England for the new Wheelyboat has allowed the thriving centre to enrich the lives of their learning, sensory and mobility-impaired visitors with this new roll-on, roll-off access powerboat, which will enable them to enjoy the excitement of water sports without the need to leave their chairs.

Local Solutions prides itself in being a thriving centre delivering services to support individuals, families and communities with a primary focus on those experiencing disadvantage, exclusion and vulnerability. The special features of the Wheelyboat will provide users with mobility impairments with new skillsets, as disabled users will be able to learn to operate the boat themselves, as well as achieving accredited watersports qualifications.

The Wheelyboat will also play an important part in extending the offer to visitors to the city. The Liverpool Watersports Centre is already enjoyed by many tourists and won the ‘Small Venue of the Year’ award at the LCR Tourism awards in 2017. Visitors with mobility restrictions will now be able to enjoy pleasure boating and historical tours of the famous Liverpool docks from the water, as well as taking part in power boat training.

Jon Hannaway, manager at Liverpool Watersports Centre says, “We’re committed to extending our activities and provision, to make watersports accessible to everyone. Having the Wheelyboat means we can offer so much more for people with disabilities, everything from pleasure boating, tours of the docks to gaining qualifications. Taking part in watersports is so good for your physical and mental health and this is just the first part of our campaign to extend the activities we have available. The Wheelyboat gives us the perfect vessel for wheelchair users to experience independence and get involved on the water, honing both their physical skills and boosting their well-being.”

Andy Beadsley, Director of The Wheelyboat Trust says, “Our Wheelyboats are designed to provide all people with access to the water, giving disabled people confidence and the equal opportunity to experience freedom and enjoyment on the water. The launch of this boat by Local Solutions at the Liverpool Watersports Centre will allow disabled visitors to not only have access to the water, but also gain powerboating tuition and qualifications for the first time, so this launch is particularly special.”

Developed by The Wheelyboat Trust and J M Coulam Boatbuilders, the V20 Wheelyboat offers flexible seating, an open level deck and a watertight bow door that lowers to form a solid ramp for extremely easy and safe wheelchair-friendly access. The craft allows people with mobility impairments to participate in waterborne activities alongside and on equal terms with their non-disabled counterparts, an important factor in the quality of life they are able to lead.

The Wheelyboat Trust relies on the support of individuals, companies and charitable organisations to fund its activities. Donations can be made in a variety of ways including online at www.wheelyboats.org/donate.html