Making boating accessible for all

Firebird PR raises profile of The Wheelyboat Trust dedicated to wheelchair-accessible boating

Since 2013, Firebird PR has been working with The Wheelyboat Trust, a small national charity dedicated to providing mobility impaired people, young and old, with the opportunity and freedom to participate in waterborne activities all over the UK and in parts of Europe. A strategic programme of PR activity focuses primarily on promoting regional boat launches. Typically, The Wheelyboat Trust works alongside charities, sailing associations, education, community and disability organisations to help them raise funds to acquire Wheelyboats.

In 2014, Firebird PR organised the 30th anniversary celebrations of the Trust, which now has almost 180 Wheelyboats in coastal, river, canal and inshore water locations. At this major event, Firebird arranged the unveiling of the Trust’s newest wheelchair-accessible boat model – the highly versatile Coulam Wheelyboat V20. Following this launch, Firebird PR continues to successfully build the public profile of the Wheelyboat Trust year on year.

In 2016 Firebird PR worked on many fantastic stories, such as the launch of two brand new Coulam Wheelyboat V20s at Connah’s Quay on the River Dee Estuary where local fisherman endeavour to provide people of all ages and abilities with access to the tidal river estuary. We also managed the Wheelyboat launch at Woolverstone Project in Suffolk, where the required funds for the new boat were raised in just one year, showing the great demand for accessible boating options. In October, Firebird PR promoted the launch of a Coulam 16 Wheelyboat, a purpose-built wheelchair accessible fishing boat, operated by Accessible Derbyshire at Ladybower Reservoir in the Peak District.

To help The Wheelyboat Trust highlight the commercial potential of its Coulam Wheelyboat V20, Firebird PR worked closely with press offices of two major boat shows at which the Trust exhibited in 2016, Seawork International and Southampton Boat Show. This resulted in media coverage, including That's Solent TV, Ship & Boat International and Motorboat Owner. During 2016, Firebird PR also secured a three-page feature about the Trust in the UK’s bestselling canal & river magazine, Waterways World, and other features in other key publications including Coast, Maritime Journal and Practical Boat Owner.

Reaching an audience of well over 45.5 million people since 2013, Firebird PR will continue to raise awareness of the work of The Wheelyboat Trust as well as about accessible boating opportunities across the UK in 2017. In addition, Firebird has recently been appointed by another charity providing boating opportunities for the disabled and disadvantaged, the Rivertime Boat Trust. As part of our brief, Firebird PR will promote a soon-to-be-revealed exciting project, alongside highlighting the outstanding work of Rivertime Boat Trust, which strives to ensure that anyone can enjoy water based activities on the River Thames.

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Maiden voyage of the new Coulam 16 Wheelyboat at Ladybower Reservoir (Photograph: Si Homfray)