‘Didn’t believe it’: Disabled Nanaimo woman waiting for Hullo Ferries to allow power wheelchairs

'Didn't believe it': Disabled Nanaimo woman waiting for Hullo Ferries to allow power wheelchairs

When Kari Brown-John arrived in her power wheelchair at the Hullo terminal in Nanaimo Sunday to pick up her daughter, she wished she also had the same opportunity.

The Nanaimo resident would love to take the new passenger ferry between Nanaimo and Vancouver, but it doesn’t accommodate power wheelchairs.

It’s a fact she learned on social media.

“I didn’t believe it. I thought that’s not true. They can’t. It’s 2023, you can’t do that,” said Brown-John.

Brown-John reached out to the company and to Transport Canada. A second email from Hullo clarified the matter.

“Actually, it was an internal decision to not allow power wheelchairs or scooters on our vessels, but we’ve been looking at our policies to make it more inclusive for everyone, and then a day later, I got an email from Transport Canada saying the same,” said Brown-John.

“They reached out to Hullo ferries, and Hullo told them that they were revamping their policies.”

In a statement provided to CHEK News, the company says: “As our ferries are designed to travel at higher speeds than most other vessels, Transport Canada requires that we comply with the High-Speed Craft Code. It mandates that every passenger has a seat that is specifically designed and arranged for passenger safety in the event of a collision.”

It goes on to say, “Out of an abundance of caution during our launch of operations, we have only permitted wheelchairs without batteries onboard our vessels. This decision was based on the risk of battery fires onboard our vessels that can be difficult to extinguish. That said, we will investigate with Transport Canada, the feasibility of admitting our passengers’ battery-powered wheelchairs onboard and permitting them to remain seated in their wheelchairs.”

The concern around electric batteries and fires is the reason the company has also not allowed electric bikes on board.

The response doesn’t fly with Brown-John.

“No, because I have travelled on a million airplanes and I can fly at 30,000 feet with batteries. Why can’t I ride a boat across the water? That’s not an excuse.”

Brown-John says it feels like a case of discrimination, and while she’s glad her daughter can use the service, she’s hoping those in powered wheelchairs will soon be included as well.

The Hullo Ferry service launched its service and saw its inaugural sailing in mid-August.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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