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Red Funnel announce new accessibility features for World Autism Day

Thu, Apr 6 2023

Red Funnel has announced it will be enhancing its service to provide a more accessible customer experience onboard its ferries in April 2023.

Through its partnership with the National Autistic Society (NAS), the south coast ferry company has identified ways to make its vessels more accessible for autistic and neurodiverse customers.
The announcement comes after the ferry operator’s recent launch of its Island Ambassador programme, which saw 26 local community members and groups supported with travel for off Island competitions. One of Red Funnel’s Island Ambassadors, Corey Kent, is an autistic jiu jitsu ambassador, and is aiming for the British Open Championship this year, hoping to inspire other people with disabilities to follow their dreams.
Alongside implementing more passenger assistance, and auditing its existing signage, the ferry operator will begin offering familiarisation visits for passengers before the date of travel. Each visit will include a tour of the vessel, with customers able to request any support depending on individual needs.

Red Funnel will also begin trialling a sensory pack which will include items such as fidget spinners, stress balls, ear defenders, and hygienic wipes. Customers will also be given a card to enable them to seek assistance without the need to have direct, and often uncomfortable, conversations.

The improvements were made following a service audit compiled in partnership with the National Autistic Society as part of a pilot project funded by the Department of Transport to tackle loneliness within communities by making public transport more accessible to autistic people. The partnership allows the ferry operator to access NAS e-learning and consultants, as well as wider transport providers who are involved in the pilot project.

Christine Flintoft-Smith, Head of Autism Accreditation at the National Autistic Society said: “Loneliness is a common feature in the lives of autistic people and their families.  There are a number of different barriers that can be faced when trying to access local communities.  Our hope is that by making modes of public transport more autism friendly, through better staff understanding and accessible information and environments, it will help to remove at least one of the difficulties faced.”

Fran Collins, Chief Executive Officer at Red Funnel, added: “We want to make our ferries as accessible as possible for all passengers, and following feedback from our recent Customer Forum, we have made several key improvements for autistic customers. We have been working with the National Autistic Society to provide our colleagues with further training and to help us assess opportunities to improve our service. We believe that autism-friendly considerations and adaptations to our service will benefit our customers.”

Red Funnel’s new website, due to launch in the spring, will be fully accessible, and later in the year, will include video tours of its facilities.

Red Funnel will be hosting its next Customer Forum session on Tuesday 23rd May. Customers interested in attending a future Customer Forum, can contact [email protected].

-ENDS-

For further information, please contact [email protected] / 02380 382 970

Notes to editors

About Red Funnel

Red Funnel is the original Isle of Wight ferry company with roots tracing back to 1820. Based in the UK port of Southampton, Red Funnel carries 2.3m passengers and over 800,000 vehicles on its ferry route between the UK port of Southampton and East Cowes and 1.1m passengers between Southampton and West Cowes on its Red Jet Hi-Speed service.  

In addition to ferry travel, Red Funnel is the only cross-Solent operator to offer ferry inclusive bonded holiday accommodation, attraction tickets, festival and event tickets and activity packages. Sub-brands include ‘Red Jet’ (the Hi-Speed passenger only ferry service serving West Cowes) and its on board café, ‘ReFuel’.

The Company is a founder member of Visit Isle of Wight Ltd, the Island’s not for profit destination management organisation and Red Funnel sponsors or supports most of the Island’s premier events including the IW Festival, Cowes Week, Wight Proms, and Walk the Wight as well as a range of community and niche interest events. Red Funnel’s Charity of the Year, 2023 is Aspire.

For more information, visit www.redfunnel.co.uk

About the National Autistic Society

 

  • The National Autistic Society is the UK’s leading charity for autistic people.
    We are here to transform lives, change attitudes and create a society that works for autistic people.
  • Since 1962, we have been campaigning for autistic people’s rights and providing support and advice to autistic people and their families.
  • To find out more about autism or the charity, visit www.autism.org.uk.
    Follow the National Autistic Society on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

About autism


  • Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world.
  • At least one in 100 people are autistic which means more than 700,000 people in the UK.
  • All autistic people have difficulties with communication and social interaction.
  • Autism is a spectrum condition. This means autistic people have their own strengths and varying and complex needs, from 24-hour care to simply needing clearer communication and a little longer to do things at work and school.
  • Without the right support or understanding, autistic people can miss out on an education, struggle to find work and become extremely isolated.
  • Although everyone is different, people on the autism spectrum may:
    • be under or oversensitive to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours, which can make everyday life extremely difficult.
    • be unable to or find it harder to speak, face delays processing information or find it hard to hold conversations.
    • experience intense anxiety around unexpected change and social situations
    • become so overwhelmed that they experience debilitating physical and emotional ‘meltdowns’ or 'shutdowns'.