Volunteers from Waterways Experiences in Hemel Hempstead took a trip down the Grand Union Canal to celebrate the completion of a project which will enable severely disabled people to enjoy the Hertfordshire canals.
Waterways Experiences is a charity run by volunteers, which provides canal boat day trips and overnight stays for older people, disabled people and other disadvantaged community groups.
But in the past, the charity has been forced to turn away some of its potential guests, because its boats did not have fully accessible facilities.
Although the charity’s three boats are adapted with lifts for guests in wheelchairs, and the toilets are equipped with grab bars to assist people with limited mobility, there was no facility to help guests who could not self transfer to use the toilet or get into bed on overnight trips.
The challenge of designing a custom hoist to fit within the confined space of a boat was taken up by Abblots Langley-based charity DEMAND (Design & Manufacture For Disability), in a project made possible thanks to sponsorship from Imagine estate agents and intu Watford.
DEMAND’s engineers designed and fitted a sunken mount for the hoist, which is concealed beneath the floor of the bathroom.
Workshop manager Adam Clow said: “It’s been challenging to get a hoist working in such a confined space.
“The bathroom aboard the boat is compact, and we needed to allow space for a guest and their wheelchair, a personal carer and then the hoist.
“We concluded the base, which holds the weight of the person, would need to be concealed beneath the floor to make sure there was space to manoeuvre.”
“We love supporting local charities, but more particularly charities where we can get to see the end results.”
The project, which began in September, has finally reached completion after a long winter of design work, welding and repeated test fittings on the canal boat.
Mike Cole, of Imagine, said: “Too often, even with very worthwhile causes, the supporter doesn’t always see where their contribution is going. In this regard DEMAND is a perfect vehicle to get behind, because they produce a finished, bespoke, visible product.
“That is so much more rewarding, and as such, in one guise or another, our association with DEMAND will last for many years to come.”
The custom hoist has now been installed and is ready to use on boat trips.
And to celebrate, volunteers from Waterways Experiences, took Mike Cole and his colleagues Angela Ellis, Camilla Ruddy and James Bradley, along with Denise Gillies of DEMAND on a celebratory trip along the Grand Union Canal
Waterways Experiences have three Enable holidays planned in August.
And because of the new hoist and under-floor mount, they have for the first time been able to accept guests with very limited mobility and even teenagers with quadriplegia.