3: Handicapped-Accessible Boat
By Richard Thiel — November 2001
To make life easier for the mobility-impaired, the saloon, galley, and most of the accommodations are on one level. Unlimited offers sleeping accommodations for eight in three staterooms, all with queen-size berths, and on a queen-size convertible sofa in the saloon. The master is aft on the main deck and is fully wheelchair accessible. A second smaller stateroom is also on this deck, and there's a third all the way forward that is four steps down. Three of the four heads are wheelchair-accessible, meaning all fixtures, including toilets, sinks, mirrors, grabrails, and light switches, are ADA-compliant. One of these heads is on the top deck so that mobility-impaired passengers need not change decks.
The galley features a full-size range, side-by-side refrigerator-freezer, dishwasher, microwave, and free-standing icemaker, all of which contrast with the surrounding walls to make cooking easier for the visually impaired. (Dark floors throughout also contrast with light-colored walls for the same reason.) The sink, countertops, and cabinets are all positioned to accommodate someone using a wheelchair. There is also a concealed, stacked washer and dryer positioned for easy access, and in areas that are carpeted, there is no padding underneath, which allows for better wheelchair maneuverability and reduces the chance that someone using a walker or cane might trip.
While Melton and his partner Paul Galloway are above all else entrepreneurs and hope to sell a number of these or similar vessels (they're currently working on water-taxi and sight-seeing versions), there's no doubt that for them this venture is also an affair of the heart. For the last six years Melton has operated Paradocks, a nonprofit corporation that provides free boating to people who would normally not get to enjoy it because of the physical limitations of conventional vessels. Typical, he says, was a 94-year-old man who, despite having worked most of his life on fishing boats, hadn't left his nursing home in more than seven years. It is those experiences, adds Melton, that brought him to the belief that there is a universe of people out there who want to be out on the water and can't. Unlimited is his answer to their desires, and he hopes other builders will join him. "With people living longer," he concludes, "all businesses need to consider that this sector is going to make up a vast percentage of consumers. Failing to supply products--including boats--that serve this group's needs would just not be good business strategy."
Intracoastal Yachts Phone: (757) 496-0053. Fax: (757) 496-4832.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.