Getting a Disabled Person into a Boat: The Complete Guide

getting a disabled person into a boat

Having plied a boat more than once, I can assure you it is the toughest way to move a disabled person than other transportation means, requiring lots of strategic planning and wisdom.

Why do I say so?

A boat is not on land; hence it isn’t steady because it is afloat.

Even the piers situated as sidewalks before boarding the boats are afloat, hence, not steady for non-disabled people, much less the disabled.

The focus here remains – with the hindrance, can you get a disabled on a boat, especially if it’s already afloat or there are no multi-lifts.

The following guidelines will put you through a smooth and pleasant process of helping a disabled person get on board a boat.

Table of Contents

Getting on a boat designed to accommodate a wheelchair, afloat or on land

The best boat to use is one modified for wheel-chair accessibility. For this kind of boat, you must install a lift system.

You should reinforce the floor, deck, and other components. A custom hole would be present to fit the lift system.

To make the boat wheelchair accessible, accommodate the weight of the wheelchair and its occupant (possibly above 300pounds), and make getting on to it easier, ensure you reinforce 90% of its component.

The lift system should weigh no more than 45 pounds while ensuring it can be dismantled and assembled when needed. The installed lift system should run right off into the boat’s battery system.

This type of boat is more convenient when getting in and out of the boat with a wheelchair, and it doesn’t require so many people present because the setup is easy. 

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getting a disabled person into a boat

Fix the lift power plug into the socket, which is usually at the side of the boat where the custom hole for the lift system has been installed.

Attach the straps on the pier rods/sides to the boat to prevent it from lifting (since it is afloat).

Take off the cap from the hole where you will insert the lift system.

Bring out the lift system, from the portable bag, for assembling. Place the rod for the lift system into the hole and fix the first lever to the rod.

Next, attach the other lever containing the lift system battery/control pack to the first lever, forming a right-angled triangle. The edge will contain an attached strap.

Bring out the hand remote and attach it to the battery/control pack on the lift. Then fix the other end of the plug, which you fixed into the socket in the first step. Use the remote to start it up – you would have to bear with the noise for a little bit.

Remember the attached strap in step 5? Whilst the power is on, Then move the wheelchair close to the pier edge (close to the boat).

Fix the springier board to the chair. The springier board has four straps. Attach the straps to the chair sides, then attach the straps dangling from the lift to the board fixed to the chair.

You can then use the remote to control the lift that would help elevate the disabled (in the wheelchair) into the boat.

Once on the boat, detach the components of the lift system and place it on the pier for easy access after the boat ride to help the disabled out of the boat.

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Getting on an afloat boat inaccessible by wheelchair

First, ensure there are no other means of transporting the disabled individual except by boat.

Hence, if there is no way to get the boat on land, no available straps, and no auto/multi-lift, then the situation can be quite frustrating, right?

You, therefore, need to prepare the mind of the disabled individual that you need to get them on the boat as it may cause them physical and psychological stress.

boat steps for handicap
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Wheel the chair lightly on the pier/jetty that takes you to the entrance of the boat. Ensure you have support from someone in front and at the side of the wheelchair while wheeling on the pier. It will help create more balance to steady the wheels.

On arrival at the boat entrance, pull the wheelchair brakes to make it halt. Have about six persons assist you in carrying the disabled individual on the boat to achieve a smooth transition from the chair onto the boat.

Note that if the boat already contains chairs, the wheelchair has to be folded till the end of the boat ride. 

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Help the disabled out of the chair and carry them. Have two persons hold on to the boat’s front mouth and another two hold on to the boat’s roof to achieve a bit of steadiness.

Hold on to the chair while three persons lift the disabled from the chair – two persons handling the arms and the third person carrying the legs of the disabled individual.

Three more persons should be waiting inside the boat to receive the disabled person from the three previous persons carrying the disabled.

While the individual is passed on to the three persons waiting to receive and place them on the boat seat, you holding the wheelchair should fold it and get on the boat for the ride.

You would most likely have to sit beside the disabled to provide comfort and some form of stamina or fencing for them to ensure a smooth boat ride for the disabled individual and others. 

How to Get a Disabled Person into a Boat (Video)

Getting a Disabled Person into a Boat: The Complete Guide


My love for the disabled community started when I helped a blind man cross the road at around age 6. Fast forward to decades later, I became the caregiver of my grandma, who lost her ability to speak in her 90s. This blog helps me to produce helpful content that aligns with my passion.

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