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Wanting to catch the waves but, your unable to transfer from your wheelchair on to a boat. Wheelyboat operates wheelchair accessible boats for public benefit from the north of Scotland to the west of Cornwall and further afield.

What was the inspiration behind Wheelyboat?

In the late 1970s one of our founding trustees sustained a spinal injury and became a wheelchair user. He was a keen angler and his disability was going to make it very difficult for him to carry on his passion. The idea of a wheelchair-accessible boat to get him on the water came about as a result and the Wheelyboat concept was born.

Image of the ramp access on to a wheely boat
Ramp that folds down to access the boat.

Where did you start with looking at the accessibility features you would need for each boat?

Roll-on, roll-off access is fundamental and this was the starting point. A bow door that lowers to form a ramp, like a landing craft, became the Wheelyboat’s principal feature. Thereafter, freedom of movement on board gives Wheelyboat users independence and the opportunity to helm the boats themselves. So the next important consideration was an open and level cockpit with access to the helm. Wheelyboats need to be stable on the water so they tend to have quite a wide beam. These three important features of the first Wheelyboat design are common to the Wheelyboat models we supply today, even those Wheelyboats used for high-speed powerboating.

What has the feedback been like from your customers regarding being able to stay in their wheelchairs whilst going out on the boats?

We receive fantastic feedback from Wheelyboat users and their operators about the freedom Wheelyboats provide, the hassle-free boarding, the thrill and exhilaration of powerboating, their inclusivity of getting disabled and able-bodied people out on the water together and the fact that Wheelyboats’ accessibility doesn’t compromise their looks or performance.

Image of one Wheelyboat boats with visitors enjoying a trip on the water
One of the Wheelyboat boats and everyone enjoying a trip on the water.

What are your future plans for Wheelyboat?

We have just launched a brand new model, the Coulam Wheelyboat V17, that is capable of being used anywhere from leisurely pleasure boating on canals to high-speed powerboating on inshore waters. This model is based on the very successful and slightly larger Coulam Wheelyboat V20 launched in 2014. On the drawing board is the Coulam Wheelyboat V24 which will be the largest Wheelyboat we intend supplying. It will seat twelve passengers and two crew and will be used for pleasure and powerboating on inshore waters, large lakes and rivers. The first V24 should be on the water next year. We will have five different models to offer projects: three sizes of Wheelyboat (5.3m to 7.2m) for pleasure and powerboating on inland and inshore waters and two sizes of Wheelyboat (4.6m and 4.9m) for angling on rivers and stillwaters.

Do you think virtual experiences would help customers who are unsure about visiting a new business or service to feel more at ease?

Yes, the more closely the experience resembles the real thing the more people will understand what to expect.

Thank you Andy Beadsley, Director of Wheelyboat, for answering our questions. If you would like to find your nearest Wheelyboat location, please visit there website here.

Follow Claire D'All:

I graduated from the University of Dundee in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Applied Computing. During my studies the field that I had a great interest in was web development however since graduating I have also become very interested in accessibility. I was born with Congenital Muscular Dystrophy and since the age of 3 I have used a wheelchair 24/7. Due to my disability I have always come across problems regarding accessibility, which is why it’s such a passion for me.

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