Lough Ree access for all

Hi, I’m Sharon Johnson and I work for Roscommon Integrated Development Company aka Roscommon Leader Partnership.

We are based in the beautiful county of Roscommon in the Republic of Ireland and we are one of the European Partners in the CATALYSE Project.

I sat down with Ciaran Mullooly from Lough Ree Access For All to talk about innovation within this amazing Roscommon social enterprise. Enjoy 😊 .

Tell us about Lough Ree Access for All

Lough Ree Access For All CLG is a start-up small tourism business based on Lough Ree in Ballyleague-Lanesborough, county Roscommon.

The company is a social enterprise and a registered charity which is serving the disability market with daily boat trips on Lough Ree on board a special innovatively designed vessel – licenced by the department of Transport.

The boat can carry up to 12 paying passengers, has been very successful in the last 12months despite Covid 19 and I am pleased to say a second vessel is on the way.

Who are your target market?

People with a physical or intellectual disability, elderly persons or those with mobility difficulties or suffering from dementia. People in residential facilities and their carers are especially welcome but the service is open to everyone and we also welcome students from disadvantaged schools.

What services do you provide? 

Heritage trips, sightseeing trips and angling trips on the River Shannon and Lough Ree

Tell us more about the innovatively designed vessel. What make is innovative?

There is no other vessel of this nature in Britain or Ireland that is licenced by authority to carry up to 10 people with wheelchairs.

Options for wheelchair users to enjoy boating activities are extremely limited. They are excluded because accessibility in design is rarely considered.

Boats are usually designed with able bodied people in mind who can easily climb onto the boat and steady themselves when a boat rocks.  Wheelchair users cannot access some vessels without being hoisted or lifted and roll around on unsteady surfaces, meaning that the vessel had to be designed specifically to address these issues.

How did you go about designing the vessel?

When we started out, one of the challenge was to learn from international experience about disability and water transport. There was no expertise in that area in Ireland.

The challenge was to identify a number of similar models internationally where people with disabilities can control the boat as well as travel on it.

The solution was to identify disabled anglers and boat enthusiasts in Sweden and the EU, and bring them on board as part of the feasibility process.

We worked on the design with Sweden, then contacted the marine survey office of the dept of transport in Dublin to engage in comprehensive discussion and consultation on the design of the boat, taking on board the experience of people with disabilities and the obvious concerns of the statutory authority.

A huge challenge was to come up with a design that met the requirements. At the end of the process we settled on a ‘roll-on, roll-off’ design –similar to a small car ferry so that wheelchair users could access the vessel on their own.

How opportunities were sourced, identified, approached and implemented? 

We love EU Leader fund! The opportunity was sourced with Leader 2. We identified opportunities under the theme of disability and rural tourism.

We met with Denise from  Roscommon Integrated Development Company at local level after seeing a call for funding presentation.

We also began our consultation informally with disability groups from all over the country including the Irish Wheelchair Association.

We were partially funded by the national lottery. Take a look at our National Lottery advert.

Can you tell me how you were able to be resourceful with minimal resources?

We continued to organise fishing competitions for Irish anglers and international anglers. We charged an entrance fee and raised a couple of thousand euro for the project.

Then we did fundraising activities by shaving and dying our hair!

How can people learn more about Lough Ree Access for All?

Our website is a good place to start  www.loughreeboattrips.com.

We featured on a news segment for RTE and we also did a video with our local radio station Ros FM 94.6

What are your social media channels?

FB: https://www.facebook.com/LoughReeAccessForAll

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LRAccessforall

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCg0w98v6m9M0AGQkSJSgjZg

Insta: https://www.instagram.com/loughreeaccessforall/

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