Since 2021, 5,500 people have enjoyed exploring Lough Ree on Access for All’s accessible boat. The County Roscommon social enterprise started this year with two more boats and aims to treble passenger numbers. So far visitors have come from every county in Ireland bar one – Antrim.

The Boat Project – Summary

Organisation type: Social enterprise
Aim: Inclusion
Cost per person: €20 for 90mins. (€5 for carers/PAs)
Boat capacity per trip: 10 people
Engines / speed (main boat): 2x 150HP / limit of 7 knots
No. of passengers to date: 5,500
To book, call: 089 2625505

The super-accessible reception centre at Lanesborough, on the lake’s northern end, has also helped make it a popular stop-off destination for wheelchair users.

Skipper Lisa Fayne looks after the organisation’s sales and marketin, she spoke to Changing Ireland about the project and the importance of full accessibility for wheelchair users.

“We offer our boat trip service for people with disabilities primarily, but it’s not just for people with disabilities, it’s access for all. We do three trips a day, and the trips last for 90 minutes. You don’t need to worry about accessibility when you come out here. Families don’t need to plan; all they need to do is ring us and see if we’re available.

“It’s such a personal experience, the boat only takes 10 people. It caters for three to four wheelchair users. Wheelchairs come in different sizes, so when people are booking we will have to ask them ‘How large is your wheelchair?’ so we can accommodate them as best we can,” Lisa explained.

“They’re locked down in place when we’re going out on the lake, and then you can unhook the wheelchair, go out onto the bow of the boat for your Titanic photos and all that!”


• ABOVE LEFT: The original boat. ON RIGHT: The two boats purchased newly for 2024. Fishing and pleasure cruising have so far attracted over 5,500 customers. For fishing trips, gear and bait is supplied by Access for All.

Lough Ree Access for All CLG’s funders include the Department of Rural and Community Development, the HSE, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Roscommon Integrated Development Company under the EU LEADER Programme, and Waterways Ireland, among others.

Access for All’s unique wheelchair-friendly vessel was specially designed in Tallinn, Estonia.

“It’s like a little car ferry. You just roll on and off; there’s no lifting, no hoist. I’m not saying hoists are bad, but my wheelchair-using friends tell me it’s mortifying ‘when you’re hoisted up like a bag of spuds’, as one of the lads put it. Here you’re treated like everyone else,” Lisa noted.

“We have two other open boats that are wheelchair accessible as well. We’re hoping to get the numbers up to 30 people per trip because we have the three boats now. So that’s where we’re starting from this year.”


Access for All are also proud of their Changing Places toilet suite, which opened last year and is one of just 25 such facilities registered in Ireland so far. These differ from standard accessible toilets as they are more spacious and offer additional facilities such as a hoist and adult-sized changing table.

According to Lisa: “It’s opened up more travel options for people. Even if they don’t come on a boat trip, they can stop off here. There’s a local man only 20 minutes down the road from us, he’s a wheelchair user and he said: ‘I love coming for my walk, or my roll, but I had to split up my day and go back home to use the toilet and then go back’. And now he doesn’t have to go home, he can stay in the town. So it’s bringing lots of people here.”


The importance of accessibility for all cannot be underestimated.

“It is so important; I never realised the barriers before I began working in this job. We’re only a snippet of breaking down the barriers to the waterways for people, and society in general. We’d like to keep educating people; we do mental health talks, we have accessibility targets.

“We bring in schoolkids and we say: ‘When you start driving a car, don’t park on the kerb. Pick up after your dogs – wheelchair users have to put their hands on the wheels’, and stuff like that.

“Even the heights of desks and sinks in our building, everything we have is adjustable. That costs more money, but we have great activists and fundraising campaigners here that keep at it.

“Dorothy Coyle, our director of disability, equality and inclusion, designed the building. But she considered that just because she’s in a small manual chair doesn’t mean that everybody will be at that height,” said Lisa.

• Lough Ree visitors enjoying their boat trip. Photo supplied by Lough Ree Boat Trips.


It is not only the boat and the building that are accessible for all, even the fishing rods can be used by people of all abilities.
“We have special motorised reels that you don’t need much movement or dexterity in your hands. It’s like a little game controller, you put it on your lap, and the fishing line literally casts out and reels in.”

Lisa recalled: “I drive the boat as well, so I do the fishing trips, and I can see how therapeutic it is. I look back at them (the passengers) and I see how relaxing it is.


“Recently a man came to us who was totally paralysed, bar movement in the tip of two fingers. And he brought out his family and a banquet of snacks with them and caught a pike for himself. That was the first pike he ever caught in his life, and that was not for want of trying.

“He had fishing experience years ago on the River Shannon with his son. His son sadly died in a car crash and he got sick himself and ended up being a wheelchair user. He had thought it wasn’t even possible to ever fish again. So he came out on the water with us, and even though his son is not with him anymore, he said it brought back memories of his son.

“We have to pinch ourselves sometimes and say ‘We’re getting paid for this. This is brilliant!’ Some people you’d see their white knuckles at the start, they’re holding on and they’re so scared. And by the end they don’t want to get off at all. It’s a powerful thing.”


The health benefits of being in or near water have been long documented, and many who have travelled on Access for All’s boat will strongly agree. Lisa’s colleague Mark McClean has an acquired injury following a car accident. He became paralysed from the waist down and is now a wheelchair user.

According to Mark, the worst aspect of his disability is the frequent and uncontrollable muscle spasms he suffers in his legs. However, after he began working at Access for All, he found that the only time the spasms fully stopped was when he was on the boat.


As part of the eight-strong staff, Access for All employs two people with disabilities through Employability Midlands. “They say to me on a daily basis: ‘I never thought I’d have a job in general, never mind this job’. They’re the faces of our company now and they love it,” Lisa remarked.

The Irish Wheelchair Association are among the most frequent users of Access for All’s boat and facilities. People involved with other organisations like Ability West, Enable Ireland and day and residential services are also regular passengers.

Access for All also receives funding from the Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board to provide boat trips for students of DEIS schools taking health and wellbeing classes.

In addition, Access for All has established an Irish Sailing Association training school to provide powerboat training. The two-day national powerboat certificate course is open to people of all abilities.

The organisation is planning to expand its sightseeing and heritage trips with improved access to the islands in Lough Ree.
“We want to get on to the islands that we do our heritage and history talks about,” said Lisa. She and her team have high hopes for one island in particular.

“We are in talks with the owners of the most famous island, Inchcleraun, also known as the Quaker Island. It has the monasteries of the seven churches on it from the time of Saint Diarmuid. He was a mentor of St Ciarán, who founded Clonmacnoise. There are no jetty facilities on the island. The owner is supporting us and we just need to get that ball rolling,” she said.

Meanwhile, the organisation hopes to host visitors one day soon from County Antrim. That would truly make the Access for All boating venture an all-island, all-Ireland success.

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