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Updated: Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:13:46 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Lord Nelson, wheelchair-accessible tall ship, sails into Halifax



Karen Sternfeld is one of 48 crew members on STS Lord Nelson with varying physical abilities. CBC

Karen Sternfeld is one of 48 crew members on STS Lord Nelson with varying physical abilities. CBC

STS Lord Nelson, one of only two tall ships in the world fully accessible for people who are disabled, sailed into Halifax harbour this week on the tail end of its two-year trip around the world.

The Lord Nelson may look like other tall ships, but it has built-in features that allow people with physical disabilities to work on board as crew members.

"It's been a steep learning curve, but I think I've got it," said Karen Sternfeld, who uses a wheelchair.

"There's hundreds of ropes. I'm not sure I know all of them, but I know most of them."

The ship contains stair lifts, accessible sleeping areas and bathrooms with enough space for a wheelchair. The deck has special notches to secure wheelchairs and there are markers on the handrails so visually impaired people know which way is forward.

The bowsprit on the Lord Nelson is also wider than other tall ships so all crew members can access it.

"I'm partially sighted, and I've managed to do everything on the ship that anyone with sight can do," said Jude Spencer-Gregson, who uses a talking compass to navigate.

"Our fellow voyage crew help by telling us if we're off course."

Capt. Barbara Campbell said there are 48 crew members on board, including eight who are paid and four who volunteer.

The rest are voyage crew members who come on a working vacation. The trip that brought them to Halifax cost about $5,400 per person.

"Out of all the crew, there's about 12 people, I would say, who do have disabilities to some extent or other," said Campbell.

The Lord Nelson, launched in 1986 in Southampton, England, will be back in London by late September.

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