The design of yachts has been limited, to date, to the development of sailing yachts that are almost identical, independently of their length and in practice inaccessible both above and below decks. We take a close look at the problems present on the decks of boats from 10 to 24 m
All yachts currently in production are not subject to any obligations on accessibility, nor to their usability by disabled people, though this does apply with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) to the American fleet.
This translates into layout designs that make the maximum use of space, for obvious commercial reasons, and several steps both above and below decks because of the intersection between space on deck and the lower environments.
It is useful to state that the following analysis will concentrate only on single-hull boats, as they are more complex in terms of the architectural distribution and the available walkable surface. Should also be said that the drawings will be used as simple reference diagrams for analysing spatial distribution, not considering the scale of each diagram.
The architectural barriers
The projects proposed referred to “typical” yachts, mass produced in the past decade. In almost all of them, the trend is to maintain the style of traditional design: apart from the presence of open transoms, no model among those proposed has a flush deck, one that is completely flat and without encumbering deck houses or other bulky superstructures.
On the contrary, all the yachts have deck houses with windshields on a different level from the deck, steps between the cockpit and the walkways and, in some cases, lines and manoeuvres that are not hidden (though this could be considered a purely technical aspect).
In the case of the 10 m boat, the helm abstracts the passage along the longitudinally axis and, when in larger boats there is a twin helm, facilitating moving around the cockpit, other elements such as fixed tables or instrument towers are inserted.
Where the passage is free from obstacles, the distance between the two benches in the guest cockpit narrows in correspondence with the hatch, making access the people in wheelchairs impossible. In general, access to environments below deck is absolutely impossible because of the small size of the hatch.
In short, the presence of architectural barriers on board is truly massive and this says a lot about how the requirements of weaker sectors are completely ignored by designers.
Safety on board for everybody
Accessibility and safety are two parameters that should guide the hand of the designer in the creative phase: the safety of disabled people should be considered for every one of the functions and spaces of a sailing yacht.
It is thus necessary to reconsider the very structure of the boat, providing it with safety systems that are particularly important in a space that continually oscillates on the three Cartesian axes, for the benefit not only of people with motor difficulties but also of normal people.
Although in recent years many changes have been made to modern boats compared with those of the past, there is still a lot to do to make these boats accessible under the principles of Design for All.
By adopting fully, or even in part, the solutions proposed in the research it is possible to create a new kind of sailing boat, to allow anyone not just to navigate in autonomy and safety, but also to create new opportunities for business such as charters for enlarged userships, inclusive sailing schools and in the development of further solutions increasingly useful to make yachts truly “for everybody”.