In an online feedback form submitted today I asked, “are the tall ships barrier free and accessible to people with disabilities?” Christopher Laforet, Office Manager of Tourism Windsor Essex emailed this response, “Due to the historic nature and design of Tall Ships, wheelchairs cannot be brought on board the ships. Any guest with disabilities may board a ship, as long as they can stand and walk on their own or with the assistance of a companion. For wheelchairs, the ships are available for viewing from dockside, not on-deck.
In addition, there are multiple exhibits and activities that are being organized dockside, including Parks’ Canada’s 1812 On Tour and storytelling/theatrical experiences.”
Information relative to the tall ships’ visit to Amherstburg in late August is posted on both the town’s and the War of 1812 web sites; unfortunately, there is no text alternative to pictures on either site although numerous requests to make the town’s web site accessible to everyone have been previously made.
UPDATE: An August 23 email from Dean Collver explains why it is not practicable to incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities:
“Tall Ships are not, traditionally or technically, universally accessible by design. To my knowledge there is one, or possibly two, ships in the world that are specifically crafted to offer some level of accessibility. I’ve been able to find information on one:http://www.jst.org.uk/lord-nelson.aspx and read an article that indicated there was a second ship in existence but I cannot find its name. The Lord Nelson is currently sailing in the waters of Australia and New Zealand.
The Tall Ships that we have procured are part of a tour called the “Tall Ships Challenge – Great Lakes 2013” which is operated by a company known as Tall Ships America. Our opportunity to procure the Tall Ships that will be visiting us came as a result of this Tour that stretches geographically from Brockville, Ontario to Duluth, Minnesota and includes 14 ports-of-call. In essence, our opportunity to host this event was tied to the ships that are involved in this Tour as opposed to being selected based on their individual merits – whether that be universal accessibility, size, design, port-of-origin or other criteria.
Despite being unable to guarantee equivalent access to the decks of the Tall Ships visiting our ports for all potential patrons of the event, we felt that we would be able to provide opportunities for accessible viewing from shore. Our plans include a volunteer-staffed and clearly stanchioned area that will be reserved on shore in very close proximity to the ships to ensure the best possible viewing for patrons who are in need of this opportunity. Ancillary events that are part of the festival have been located to provide as much opportunity for universal accessibility as King’s Navy Yard Park allows.
As a result of this inquiry it has come to our attention that these plans and opportunities have not been included on our website describing the event – this has been, or will be, rectified immediately.
My hope is that this email offers a satisfactory explanation of not only why it was not practicable to incorporate accessibility criteria and features into the deck viewing portion of our visiting Tall Ships, but also our rationale for proceeding despite this lack and the steps we have taken to supplement event logistics to the best of our ability.”