Saturday, February 19, 2011

British man told he can't take his wheelchair on cruise

From The Gazette in the UK:

A Tadley man was left “shocked and disappointed” after being told that he would not be able to take his electric wheelchair on a cruise.

David Leeks (pictured), who is disabled after contracting polio and is a former chairman of the British Polio Fellowship, said that he had been on several cruises in the last few years with different travel companies and had never before been banned from taking the chair.

The 55-year-old Basingstoke and Deane Borough councillor, who represents Tadley South ward, was trying to book a cruise around the Canary Islands with Thomson Cruises when he was told the firm could not accept his booking.

Cllr Leeks, who lives in The Copse, Tadley, said: “I could not believe it when I was told that I wouldn’t be able to take the holiday because they didn’t have the right facilities for my wheelchair.

“I, along with many other people, need an electric wheelchair because I am not physically able to push myself along in a manual wheelchair for extended periods of time.

“I was very surprised when I was told, after I had tried to book the trip, that I would not be able to take it. It was extremely disappointing.”

Thomson Cruises says it only allows standard-sized, collapsible, manual wheelchairs aboard its ships.

A spokesman from the Thomson Special Assistance Team said: “Unfortunately, we are unable to accept battery-operated or electric wheelchairs or scooters on our cruises for health and safety reasons.

“We make every effort to accommodate less able passengers and welcome wheelchair users. However, we regret that we are not able to provide for wheelchairs that are not manually operated.”