Getting on the water

A focus on both the routes to any pontoon, jetty or boat in use; the pontoons and or slipway; the boats available and safety or assistive equipment provided.

Routes to the launching area

Routes to the launching area should be free from hazards, easy to locate, step free and on a firm surface that is slip resistant in all weather conditions. Routes should be wide enough to allow for wheelchairs, have room for passing and turning.  If there are any hazards on main routes, consider what protection may be needed, and visual contrast should be used to ensure any hazards can be more easily seen. Seating at regular intervals can help.


Steps may be a preferred route for some, but can provide hazards, particularly for people with a visual impairment or those who struggle to judge depth of field. Handrails, highlighted nosing, and non-slip surfaces all help. Open risers can mean there is a risk people trap their toes between treads / risers or feeling insecure when looking through gaps.


Clear, consistent and logical but not excessive signage can be provided at all junctions, including steps and ramps. Tactile markers can identify important information. 

Pontoon / Jetty

Access to any pontoon / jetty / slipway needs to be safe, and wide enough (preferably 1200mm) to allow circulation space for wheelchair users. The pontoon or jetty itself will need allocated space for wheelchair users, passing room and turning spaces. If access is ramped, ideally there should be a level surface at the top and consideration given to how this is hinged and covered so that edges remain flush to the pontoon. At the bottom (pontoon end) a buffer slope may be needed. The effect any changes in water level or tide on the ramp gradient needs to be considered and assessed. Hand rails on both sides of ramps should extend to the buffer plates at the top and bottom. Handrails on the pontoon itself will provide support and reassurance all. Surfaces need to be slip resistant in all weather conditions. Contrast colour edge marking is advisable and contrast considered between any fittings on the pontoon and the immediate surroundings. Once people are in boats and launched, space is required for wheelchairs and mobility aids.

Boats, Aids and Equipment

It is important to consider the boats you have available and whether any are suitable for people who use wheelchairs, have limited mobility or limited core / trunk support.

A wide range of equipment can people getting in and out boats (e.g. transfer boards, stacking steps, hoists), supporting sitting positons once in the boat and independently controlling the steering and other controls, from high tech to low tech, from homespun to commercially available.

Beach wheelchairs may be needed where provision of a pontoon or landing stage is out of the question.

Personal flotation devices and other sailing safety clothing.

What to wear, and how to be safe in the boat may be a barrier for many new to sailing, so consider what you are able to provide in terms of personal flotation devises and clothing to keep people warm and dry.


It is helpful to think of Sailing as being accessible because of the combination of the appeal of the sport itself (outdoor, on the water, freedom etc), the fact that it is equipment based so there is something out there for everyone including some very specialist kit, and it is reliant on people to make it happen (often volunteers). People are vital. The ability to listen to sailors and what they need, to welcome people so they have a great experience every time and to show potential sailors what is possible are all key. So having the right people trained in the safe and effective use of the equipment (including hoists), any technology and the boats you use is vital as is ensuring staff and volunteers can listen, assess the support a sailor may need to be independent and help sailors choose the right equipment, boats and adaptations for them. 

Checklist questions

  1. Is the route to the water and launching area easy to locate, clear, unobstructed, firm and with a step free, slip resistant surface?
  2. Is there access onto the pontoon / jetty for wheelchair users?
  3. Is the pontoon / jetty sufficient in width and circulation space for wheelchair users and people using a cane?
  4. Does the pontoon / jetty have high visibility markings on the edge, and good contrast between any fittings and their background?
  5. Do you have a dry space to store wheelchairs and other personal equipment while people are sailing?
  6. Does access to the pontoon / jetty and the pontoon / jetty itself have sufficient handrails?
  7. Do you have any aids and equipment to support sailors to self-transfer from wheelchair to boat, and back again?
  8. Do you have a hoist available for use on the pontoon / jetty?
  9. Do you have boats that can be used by people who use wheelchairs, have limited mobility and / or limited core / trunk support and can you launch the boats safely?
  10. Do you have aids and equipment to support people sit in the boat so they are well positioned for all the controls?
  11. Do you have aids and equipment to assist sailors with visual impairments to learn to sail and control the boat independently?
  12. Do you have aids, equipment and technology to support people with limited grip, strength or movement to steer and trim the sails?
  13. Do you provide personal flotation devices and / or clothing for safety and warmth on the water?
  14. Are staff and volunteers trained in the safe and effective use of equipment, aids and technology available on the pontoon / jetty / slipway and in the boats? Do you have records of training completed?
  15. Are staff and / or volunteers available who can assess the support and aids a sailor may need to choose the right boat, get in and out of it, sit comfortably and safely and use all the controls independently?

Accessibility statement

Get across the support you can offer to get people in the right boat, with the right equipment, continuing their sailing journey. Listing the type of boats might not help people who know nothing about sailing, but get across there is something for everyone.

Similarly you don’t have to detail every bit of equipment but state whether getting on the water is accessible to wheelchair users, and that you have a range of aids to help people in and out of the boats, to sit comfortably and control the steering and sails. Perhaps engage disabled people already involved to promote it to others and get across how accessible it is.

If you have a hoist, detail this. Be honest about any limitations. If you provide personal flotation devices and clothing state this. Most of all reassure that the activity will be suitable, that you will listen and welcome people.


Next - consider whether those sailing with you can get out of the building or boats in an emergency.

Next - emergency and safety