Invitation to attend ‘Towards Accessible Waterways’ event

The Canal & River Trust and the Accessible Waterways Association are hosting an event, in Birmingham on 2 December 2023, dedicated to accessibility and the waterways.

To coincide with the United Nations International Day of People with Disabilities, the ‘Towards Accessible Waterways’ event recognises and celebrates all those who are working to make the inland waterways more accessible for everybody. The day is aimed at anyone who has or cares about accessibility needs, including boaters, walkers and wheelers on the towpaths, and others who want to enjoy the inland waterways in any manner.

Towards Accessible Waterways

10:30am – 6:00pm, 2 December 2023
Trefoil House, 2 Ellis Street, Birmingham, B1 1HL

Tickets are available via Eventbrite

The main programme commences at 11:00am with Tracey Clarke, founder of the Accessible Waterways Association and the self-styled ‘blind boater’, giving a brief talk outlining the day.

Keynote speaker Paralympian kayaker Rob Oliver headlines the agenda of speakers. From the Trust, there’ll be an interview with national towpath advisor Dick Vincent, and Matthew Symonds, head of customer service support, will be sharing concept designs for an “Accessible Mooring Bollard” being developed in consultation with disabled boaters. Speakers from the Waterways Chaplaincy and Marie Curie complete the formal presentations, and Liz Humphreys will talk about having a new boat bespoke built for her accessibility needs.

The agenda allows plenty of time to mingle, chat and investigate stall holders exhibiting how they are working towards making our inland waterways as accessible as possible. There will be time for Q&A, informal discussion, and feedback, and a buffet lunch will be provided.

Matthew Symonds, head of customer service support at the Canal & River Trust, said: “The inland waterways are for everyone, and we want to remove the barriers that may prevent people from enjoying them. We’re working with our Disabled Boaters’ Forum to start making the waterways more accessible and have supported the creation of the independent Accessible Waterways Association.

“Our recent Boater Census indicated that there is a higher percentage of boaters than in the general population who identify as disabled, showing that being disabled doesn’t have to be a barrier to enjoying the waterways, but also highlighting that the need for appropriate access is even more important. We’re delighted to be co-hosting this event with the Accessible Waterways Association to showcase how together we’re working towards accessible waterways for all.”

Tracey Clarke, founder of the Accessible Waterways Association, said: “We are very proud and excited to be staging this day. It will be a good mix of exhibitors and speakers, plus plenty of time to chat, socialise, ask questions, and make suggestions. We are also delighted to have found this wonderful brand new totally accessible venue with excellent facilities and to support another charity by hiring it.

“The event is all about the (surprising to some) fact that people of all abilities want and need to enjoy the canals and rivers of the UK. The waterways offer some superb environments that really do ‘make life better by water’, to coin the Trust’s catchphrase. We all want to feel safe and able to draw upon this important source of peace and wellbeing. Progress is being made to facilitate this for those less agile, but there is a lot of room for further improvement. The AWA has been formed to strive toward these improvements and further progress. This includes finding ways to work with and around the important heritage challenges of such an historic network. We are really looking forward to welcoming as many people as possible at this momentous event.”

There is no charge for attending, but any donations would be appreciated via the GoFundMe page.

For speaker biographies and travelling/venue advice, please visit the AWA’s website.