Accessible boat travel on the Middle Rhine

“Reisen für Alle”, or “Travel for all” is the standardised German nationwide certification for accessibility. KD, too, has turned its attention to this issue.

The Köln-Düsseldorfer Rheinschiffahrt GmbH (KD) riverboat cruises through the UNESCO World Heritage Site Upper Middle Rhine Valley are extremely popular with guests from near and far. It goes without saying that passengers with limited mobility can also enjoy the KD boat trips. The “RheinZeit” team tested how this works in practice on an excursion to the romantic Middle Rhine. Together with Matthias Rösch, state representative for the interests of people with disabilities in the Rhineland-Palatinate state ministry, his assistant Marcelin Dubiel, and Stephan Heym, project manager at the Centre for People with Disabilities to Live a Self-Determined Life (Zentrum für selbstbestimmtes Leben behinderter Menschen) in Mainz, we started by taking the MS Godesburg from Bacharach to St. Goarshausen.

Wheelchair-accessible MS Godesburg and MS Asbach

“Nothing about us without us” is Matthias Rösch’s motto. By this he means the inclusion of people with disabilities as experts in their own affairs. The 56-year-old became a paraplegic after a traffic accident as a teenager and has been dependent on a wheelchair and personal assistant ever since. Forty-year-old Stephan Heym is visually impaired. He says he has three-percent vision and can recognise outlines and distinguish between light and dark. This trip is precisely about Rösch’s motto. We want to experience together how accessible the boat cruise is, what can still be improved and how to incorporate an excursion at our destination.

Accessibility means that areas are designed in such a way that they can be accessed, used and experienced by everyone without assistance. This is a matter very close to KD’s heart. “We are getting more and more enquiries from guests who are in a wheelchair or have a walking impediment asking us which sections of the Middle Rhine, which entry points and which ships are particularly suitable for them. As our two ships the MS Asbach and MS Godesburg are wheelchair accessible, we decided to have this standard certified in Rhineland-Palatinate, so that we can provide guests with reliable information,” says Chairman of the KD Board Dr Achim Schloemer. Access to both ships is at ground level. The MS Godesburg, built in 1994, has a particularly spacious saloon and a large open deck. Guests can access all decks via two stair lifts. On the MS Asbach, which was built in 1996, a lift gives passengers access to all decks.

MS Godesburg is wheelchair-accessible

View of the Loreley rock

Stair lift on MS Godesburg

Stair lifts to all decks

Matthias Rösch reaches the lower level without a problem with the help of his assistant Marcelin Dubiel. This is where the wheelchair-accessible toilet is located. The second stair lift takes him just as smoothly to the MS Godesburg’s open deck. Nevertheless, Rösch suggests replacing the lifts with newer models that use state-of-the-art technology. Stephan Heym moves safely on the boat, even without his folding white cane with rolling ball tip. Later, on land, Heym uses the aid to detect level differences on the road, steps, curbs and obstacles in his way in good time. Stephan Heym highlights one important point: for people with an impairment to live a self-determined life, interpersonal connections play at least as important a role as the structural conditions. “It’s also about breaking down barriers in the mind.


“At the push of a button, stories about the Lorelei legend sound from loudspeakers positioned at various heights.”

“Hearing Rock” in the Culture and Landscape Park

We exit the ship in St. Goarshausen. Th e next item on the programme is a visit to the Lorelei Rock. Just a few metres away from the KD jetty is the stop for the regular bus service to the Lorelei plateau. Th e number 535 bus can be lowered and has a ramp that folds out easily. Th is means that entering the bus and exiting it later on at the plateau are no problem for Matthias Rösch. Th e journey takes about 15 minutes. In good spirits, our small tour group visits the new Culture and Landscape Park, which opened a good three years ago. Th e unique cultural landscape is fully accessible. Th e “Hearing Rocks” are one element of the “Mythenpfad” (myth path). At the push of a button, stories about the Lorelei legend sound from loudspeakers positioned at various heights. Th e short episodes are told in six languages. Th e “Strahlenweg” (ray path) leads to the edge of the cliff , where there is a spectacular view of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. At the six lookouts, haptic models and information boards make it possible for all guests to feel and experience the scenic and historical features of the location.


Accessible paths at the Lorelei plateau

Viewpoint at the Lorelei plateau with explanations in braille

Hearing Rocks along the myth path

Spectacular view at the edge of the cliff

Travelling by handbike and by tandem

Back to Bacharach by handcycle and tandem

After this successful detour to Lorelei, we take the bus back to St. Goarshausen and from there we travel by ferry across the Rhine to St. Goar. Things are about to get sporty for our three travel companions. Instead of taking the KD boat, they cycle back to Bacharach along the Rhine cycle path. Matthias Rösch rides a handcycle, his assistant Marcelin Dubiel and Stephan Heym set out on a powder-blue tandem. After around 50 minutes, everyone arrives in good spirits back in Bacharach, where we started our tour.


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Spectacular times on the Rhine!
The new KD event ship

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