Rebecca Herbert: Getting round South London as a wheelchair user

Rebecca Herbert

Disabled people can enjoy the waterways by yacht, boat, or even go fishing.

Tideway Sailability is a charity providing sailing to people with physical or learning disabilities in Rotherhithe.

There is a wide range of easy to sail and stable boats suitable for complete novices and electric servo systems to allow those with very limited mobility to sail independently.

Hoists are used for those with limited or no mobility, and all safety equipment is provided.

Located in a former commercial dock, there is easy access to the sheltered and protected water, and waterproofs if it rains.

Chairman Simon Whiteley said: “Whatever the type of disability (or none), for both our sailors and our volunteers, the emphasis is on enjoyment.

“The benefits they find in terms of calmness, confidence, independence, fresh air and exercise, giving something back or anything else all flow from that fun.”

Sailing sessions are on Wednesdays and Thursdays (April to October) and Sundays all year round. Taster sessions are free and volunteers, including parents and personal helpers, sail for free.

There are a number of organisations across the waterway network offering days out or longer breaks on specially adapted canal boats.

Accessible broad beam boats are specially designed and equipped to cater for people with disabilities or reduced mobility and have hydraulic lifts for easy access, accessible toilets and are centrally heated.

MBNA Thames Clippers are the fastest and most frequent fleet on the River Thames. Use a ramp to board and travel from Millbank through the heart of London to North Greenwich and Woolwich, or west to Putney.

There is a maximum of four wheelchairs on the larger boats and room for a further three folding wheelchairs.

Electronic wheelchairs are also welcome. All boats except the Star, Storm, and Sky Clippers have accessible toilets. All piers are wheelchair accessible, except London Bridge City, Wandsworth Riverside Quarter and Cadogan piers.

If you prefer fishing to cruising, finding a boat, is no longer a problem.

The Wheelyboat Trust was formed in 1984 to promote and provide its newly developed Wheelyboat to fisheries to help them provide access for disabled anglers.

Originally called the Handicapped Anglers Trust, the name was changed in 2004, to reflect the Trust’s broader aims.

Trust Director Andy Beadsley said: “Wheelyboats overcome the problems of access to waterborne activities and give disabled people like me freedom and independence on the water.”

Wheelyboats can be operated independently by disabled people who are less dependent on others.

They can organise their own trips and can train for and attain RYA powerboating and other qualifications, increasing their skills and enabling them to mentor others.

Those at the opposite end of the scale of independence can enjoy the sensory stimulation of being on the water.

Wheelyboats are located throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland, with most at trout fisheries where fly fishing is the principal method (

The RYA has just launched a new scheme called Powerability with the specific aim of encouraging more disabled people on the water in motor and powerboats.


WHEELCHAIR – Friendly food and theatres:

The Boathouse
32 Brewhouse Lane, London SW15 2JX
This spacious pub is ideal for a summer’s day or night and is located along the river, so provides stunning views of London. It Is better to sit outside because there is a small step to the main bar, but it is also where the disabled toilet Is.

104 Coombe Road, Croydon, Greater London CR0 5RB
This large family pub and restaurant is completely accessible. With parking outside, there is a ramp leading to the door. The venue has a lot of wheelchair space and an adapted toilet. There is also a terrace and pub garden

Bring It On 
Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD 020 7407 0234
until September 1

Inspired by the hit film and filled with the complexities of friendship, jealousy, betrayal and forgiveness.

A Pocketful of Bread
Ovalhouse, 52-54 Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW, 020 7582 7680. September 10-13, Ovalhouse

What happens when a man with a cane and a man with a hat find a dog stuck at the bottom of an abandoned well?

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