The European regulations require shipowners to inform all travelers with disabilities about the services and assistance available on board. Furthermore, it is mandatory a suitable equipment to help customers with disabilities, such as elevators, ramps or escalators, allowing easy access to the ship’s premises.
The laws are also very specific about the size of the available access, including emergency exits, corridors and toilets that need to be large enough to facilitate the use even with wheelchairs; such rules dictate also that the alarm systems need to be clearly signposted for the visually impaired or blind individuals.
Another important aspect here regulated is the mandatory application of such law in all the EU countries: Specifically, the EU Regulation 1177/2010 sets out the rights of travelers by sea. This standard, first, states the prohibition to refuse ordering tickets for persons with reduced mobility, and forbids the application of any kind of surcharge on these tickets.
If and only if the terminal or vessel do not present infrastructure suitable for boarding and transport the passenger in total safety, then access will be denied, after notification by the shipping company itself.
The shipping company will incur in penalties and fines as stated by law if it:
- refused to deliver the ticket to a person with reduced mobility;
- did not put in place all the necessary efforts to present an alternative solution;
- did not promptly inform the passenger of the motivation for denying access.
To fulfill these rules and offer more services that best meet the needs of all customers, the shipping companies have set up their own systems in order to break down the barriers and help people with reduced mobility (PRM) to do the crossing in complete safety and comfort. In order to enjoy the services provided by the shipping company, the disabled passenger is always required to report the need for assistance, showing the documentation attesting its status, at the time of booking and at least 48 hours before departure.
Some of the services offered by the various shipping companies are as follows:
- Cabins with easy access for the disabled
- Reserved parking in the garage
- Reserved parking on the quay
- Adequately trained personnel for the PMR assistance
- A suitable atmosphere to accommodate passengers with every need
- Allocation of ramps, elevators or escalators
- Possibility of having a free ticket for a companion and / or a discount PMR
- Assistant dogs in all municipalities of the ship premises
Of course, these solutions must not only be addressed and applied inside the ferry: to ensure full assistance, even the ports must be properly equipped. In this sense, one of the most advanced Italian ports to the hospitality and infrastructure, is Piombino, which offers bus stops, railway and car terminal gate eased to facilitate entry to piers by disabled persons thanks to its dedicate service called “Port-Able”.
Therefore, assistance for boarding of disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility starts already on the platform, where appropriate structures and services offer easy access to the ship. Passengers who do not embark the car can then park it in a nearby reserved area in the docks and get the assistance of an operator to reach the ferry. The traveler who needs to take the car instead, will get specific help inside the garage. The staff of the shipping company, at this point, will ensure the help you need to access the halls through elevators or escalators. Once on board, the wide spaces of the corridors, lifts, cabins and toilets will ensure the ability to move independently and easily around.
Although many shipping companies have already equipped all its vessels with the necessary installations, there are still some exceptions. So please we advice all passengers who require assistance to request more information about the services available on board, before finishing the booking.