Design of Large Passenger Ships & Passenger Infrastructure: Guidance on Meeting the Needs of Disabled People

Section 4: On-board Accommodation

Access to the Ferry

4.1 This can be either from the car deck or through the passenger gangway. Whilst most of the comments in this section will be applicable to people using wheelchairs, other comments with respect to other disabilities will be referenced where necessary. Reference should be made to MCA Notice MGN31 (M) - see Appendix 1.

Access via Passenger Gangway

4.2 The interface between the gangway and the ship where the gangway end comes into the ship should be near to level as possible, trip-free and covered with a non-slip surface. A crew member should be stationed at the entrance, primarily for security and boarding-card procedures, but also to assist disabled passengers if required. The crew member should be able to request back up.

Access via Car Deck

4.3 At check-in stage within the port the disabled person, once identified, should be asked to switch on his/her vehicle’s hazard warning lights. This practice is generally used in all UK ferry terminals to indicate a vehicle requiring priority loading. Once identified as a ‘disabled person’s’ vehicle, the crew should endeavour to load it such that it is parked on board next to a lift. It should be noted that extra space on the driver’s side or passenger’s side (depending on whether the disabled person is the driver or passenger) will be needed to allow a wheelchair user to transfer to and from their car and wheelchair. Extra space will also be needed by people who use walking aids or who have stiff and painful legs e.g. arthritis. Similarly, where cars are parked one behind another additional space may be needed to allow wheelchair users to get out of a rear tailgate. The car deck itself in the vicinity of the lift should be clearly marked for disabled access. Standard lift requirements apply unless they conflict with current Passenger Ship Construction Regulations (SOLAS) - see Appendix 2.

4.4 Passengers with walking impairments will generally need to use the lifts, but the stairs must also be designed to appropriate standards with regard to colours and stair nosings (see Section 5.11). The widths of stairways are regulated by Passenger Ship Construction Regulations (SOLAS) - see Appendix 2. The steps themselves should be of uniform dimensions with closed risers. Passageways to which passengers have access should have a minimum width of 2000mm where possible, subject to a minimum 1800mm to enable for example a wheelchair user and a pram can pass.


4.5 Toilets conforming with the guidance given in sections 2.27- 2.29 should be provided on each deck level.

Baby-care Facilities

4.6 See the guidance given in sections 2.30-2.31.

Retail Sales Areas

4.7 See the guidance given in sections 2.32-2.34.

Restaurants, Cafeterias and other Service Counters

4.8 Assistance dogs should be permitted in restaurants, cafeterias and other Service Counters. All service counters should be accessible to disabled passengers, including wheelchair users. For service counters, there should be at least one section which is at a height suitable for wheelchair users and people of short stature. For self-service catering facilities and tables, see the guidance given in sections 2.35-2.36.

General Lighting

4.9 See the guidance given in sections 2.39-2.45.

4.10 Floor level and low level lighting should not be used except where required by Passenger Ship Construction Regulations (SOLAS) to indicate escape routes, stairways and exits (see Appendix 2). Such lighting used in other circumstances can be disorientating and confusing to visually impaired people.


4.11 See the guidance given in sections 2.46-2.50. In addition, any signs used on board should not conflict with the requirements of IMO Resolution A760(18), which concerns life saving appliances related symbols.

Safety Announcements

4.12 These must be given over the public address system before leaving the berth, including details of emergency arrangements such as donning of lifejackets, but should be complemented by a simultaneous video, wherever practicable. The announcement must identify the location of safety instruction information. Evacuation arrangements vary considerably between ships, and crews should take part in regular exercises to train them in assisting disabled passengers.

4.13 In the event of weather giving rise to danger for wheelchair users, the operator should make appropriate announcements for those users, where possible, to transfer from their wheelchairs into secured seats. Alternatively, appropriate wheelchair-restraining systems should be available. As a minimum, the Information Desk should openly display the name of the on-duty first aider.

Induction Loops

4.14 These should be fitted and screened to avoid causing interference with the ship’s systems.


4.15 Where these are fitted, they should conform with the guidance given in sections 2.52-2.54.


4.16 Operators should consider making available tactile maps of the vessel where considered appropriate.

First Aid

4.17 Operators should decide their first-aid policy and make appropriate arrangements to ensure that in the event of a disabled passenger becoming ill they can be given the same attention, including access to first-aid rooms, as any other passenger.


4.18 When designing furniture layout within public spaces, operators should, in addition to complying with statutory regulations, provide facilities for disabled people, such as a combination of fixed or moveable seats, armrests, suitable heights, etc.


4.19 Wherever possible, a proportion of passenger cabins should be accessible to disabled people, including wheelchair users who cannot walk at all. It is important that cabins are equipped with facilities to enable disabled passengers to summon assistance in the event of illness or other emergencies.