The newly renovated Mukilteo ferry terminal is ADA compliant, but still needs improvements

Apr 28, 2022, 4:04 PM | Updated: Apr 29, 2022, 11:25 am

Heather Mayhugh, owner of WI Drive, and her passengers are concerned not enough was done for people with disabilities when they frequent the $187 million dollar newly-renovated Mukilteo ferry terminal.

Her first issue is with the compliant lanes created to appease Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. The lanes are still not wide enough to load and unload her wheelchair passengers when they need to visit the ADA compliant restrooms.

WI Drive is Whidbey Island’s only door-to-door non-emergency wheelchair-accessible transport service.

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“The terminal restrooms are placed at the front of the loading lanes. If you are in the back of the lane, it’s a long haul to get to the restroom,” Mayhugh said. “Not to mention the lane where my van is parked in line. There is not enough space for me to unload my passenger, get them to the restroom and come back and load them again.” 

Mayhugh said most times she has to get out of line and communicate with the ferry’s ticket agent to help direct traffic as she navigates her average-sized van.

“Lines fill up fast and once I am done loading a passenger after a restroom break, we get moved to another line and sometimes it’s in the way in the back.”

This means her frail or disabled passengers have to wait even longer to board the ferry. Some days, the wait can be three hours or longer. 

Washington State Ferries (WSF) offers a Medical Preferential Loading Pass, which can help approved passengers skip the line. However, Mayhugh disputes this claim.

“Half of the time, ferry workers at the terminal haven’t registered the passes or there’s been an error that has prevented the pass from working,” Mayhugh said. “The hospitals don’t understand what the pass is or what it’s for, and sometimes, they never receive the paperwork.”

This seems to be an ongoing issue for Mayhugh’s passengers. Acquiring the pass can be quite an arduous process. 

Here are some of the requirements for the Medical Preferential Boarding Pass: 

  • Must be certified by a physician on a Medical Preferential Load Program Attending Physician/Hospital/Clinic Form faxed directly to the terminal
  • Can only be certified by doctors, nurses, midwives, and affiliated positions (RN, PA, etc.)
  • Cannot be certified by physical therapists, chiropractors, etc.

Applications for medical preferential loading can be requested by calling 1-888-808-7977 or 206-464-6400 and can be sent to the physician via email, fax, or mail. Applications will be sent only to a physician, hospital, or clinic, never directly to the patient.

Ian Sterling, the ferry system’s communications director, understands that applying for the pass isn’t always successful, but claims many people are successfully able to use the Medical Preferential Boarding Pass. Changes are still coming regarding the system, according to Sterling. 

“You know, I think it’s an obligation, especially with a state-run ferry system to really look out for the ADA community and other communities as well,” Sterling said in response to Mayhugh’s complaints. “It’s public transit and at the end of the day, it has to work for everyone.”  

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The Mukilteo facility is fully ADA compliant, according to Sterling. He also stated the ferry system has identified a way for [Mayhugh] to get preferential loading without having to go through the medical pass every single time.

“Our folks are going to reach out to her and walk her through the process and hopefully get this situation solved for everybody,” Sterling said.

“I don’t want to get too excited,” Mayhugh said. “I have heard all this before.”

As of this reporting, Mayhugh still hasn’t heard from anyone at WSF. 

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The newly renovated Mukilteo ferry terminal is ADA compliant, but still needs improvements