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20-time visitor ‘not sure’ he would return after wheelchair access to port

A disabled cruise visitor to Bermuda found it so difficult to get off the ship that he said his trip to the Island this summer may be his last.

“Even people that were not disabled had problems negotiating those ramps,” said Hal Hoffman, who arrived aboard the Veendam with his wife Carolyn on August 16.

“What could and should have been so easy turned into an insurmountable obstacle just to get out on to Front Street.”

Although the ship docks at street level, the couple said they had no choice but to try to negotiate a steep ramp with switchbacks that could not accommodate Mr Hoffman's wheelchair or scooter.

Forced to put his scooter in neutral and drag it to the top of the ramp, Mr Hoffman said he asked customs why a lower access gate could not be opened for the disabled, and was met with “bureaucratic indifference”.

Three days later, he said ship staff told him the lower gate was open for disabled access between 9.30am and 10.30am, and 1.30pm and 2.30pm.

“Why did the people up in customs and security not tell me this?” he asked. “And I am sorry, but two times per day is simply not good enough.”

Mr Hoffman said his wife was in tears after he slipped and fell on the ramp, then had to drag his scooter up in the rain.

He said it should have been no problem for staff onshore to open the easy-access gate when it was needed. The 20-time visitor to the Island added: “As it stands right now, I am not sure I would cruise there again unless something changes.”

Mr Hoffman's complaint came as Health Minister Zane DeSilva spoke at Bermuda's third annual Environmental Access Awards.

The awards go to organisations or individuals that have made “significant efforts to make their properties and services accessible”.

“Accessibility has much to do with good health and well-being,” the Minister said.

“A person who is mobility-challenged feels good about themselves if they are able to conduct their own affairs. There is a sense of independence.”

Mr DeSilva said the Ministry will take part in Government's TechWeek initiative next month, to raise awareness on accessibility issues.

Ms McKay, who advises services on using the Internet and other technologies to become more accessible, is to visit the Island for TechWeek from October 10 to 14.

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Published September 15, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated September 15, 2011 at 10:08 am)

20-time visitor ‘not sure’ he would return after wheelchair access to port

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