Disabilities and medical assistance

We strive to make our sailing experience accessible to riders with disabilities and riders who need medical assistance. This page provides tools and resources for planning your trip. The page includes the following information:

Call before you sail

The ferries and terminals that you use will affect your trip and have different levels of accessibility.

If possible, call our customer information center 24 hours in advance of your sailing at 206-464-6400. Tell us the route and the approximate time you wish to travel, and we can give you information about the ferry and terminal for the route.

Accessibility features on ferries

Our fleet has 21 ferries that have different ages and designs. Learn about a vessel’s accessibility by selecting a vessel on the vessel by class page.

Vessels are assigned to different routes - sometimes on extremely short notice - depending on the time of year and vessel maintenance and repair needs. If you give our team a call at 206-464-6400, we can give you recommendations for sailing times and identify vessels and terminals that best accommodate your needs.

Reduced fare passenger tickets

People with disabilities may qualify for reduced passenger fares on any route. Those who also require attendant care while traveling must obtain an endorsement to allow their attendant to travel free as a passenger.

Persons with disabilities, seniors (65+) and passengers with a Medicare card or other eligibility verification, travel at half the regular passenger fare rate.

Additional eligibility for the reduced rate can include:

  • WSF Disability Permit
  • ORCA Regional Reduced Fare Permit
  • Disability identification card

Reduced fare vehicle tickets

There are no discounts for standard vehicles.

Discounts apply to specially equipped vehicles. Passengers requiring the use of an overheight vehicle (7 feet, 2 inches or above) equipped with a wheelchair lift or ramp may travel at the posted standard vehicle (or car) fare.

If a person with a disability is in the vehicle, you do not pay the overheight surcharge for wheelchair lifts.

If a person with a disability is not present, then you do pay the overheight surcharge.

ORCA Regional Reduced Fare Permit

Senior citizens and people with disabilities may ride the bus, train or ferry at a reduced rate with a valid Regional Reduced Fare Permit (RRFP) ORCA card. Learn how to get an RRFP on the Sound Transit website.

Once you have your ORCA RRFP, load a dollar value onto your card and each time you ride a ferry, the discounted fare (50 percent off passenger travel - no car/driver discount) will be taken off of your card.

If you use many forms of public transportation, the ORCA RRFP is the most convenient way to receive the reduced-fare benefits of multiple systems within the region.

WSF Disability Travel Permit

This permit is free and only valid on WSF. The WSF Disability Travel Permit requires application information and appropriate medical authorization for a permit and attendant care endorsement. The permit provides a reduced fare for those who qualify. People with disabilities may qualify for reduced passenger fares on any route. At the time of travel please inform the seller if you want the half-price fare. Vehicle fares are never discounted.

Arrive in advance of your sailing

Arrive at the terminal at least 20 minutes in advance of the sailing. Show the necessary permits if you are requesting a discounted fare, and ask about specific accommodation, if necessary. We will do our best to meet your needs, but accommodations for all passengers are made on a first-come, space-available basis.

If you are traveling with medical preferential loading, you may be required to arrive further in advance. Please refer to the next section. 

Medical preferential loading

The WSF Medical Preferential Load program provides an exemption from the standard “first-come-first-served” policy when a customer has a medical condition where an extended wait on the dock would cause detrimental risks to their health.

This program is not for use to get to appointments on time when waiting at a terminal would not cause any health risks. You are responsible for planning for any extended waits in such cases.

When sailings are on overload and there are long wait times at the terminal, a customer with medical preferential status:

  • Sails on the next available sailing
  • Is not entitled to first-on/first-off positioning

Need for preferential loading:

  • 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 and affiliated positions (RN, PA, etc.)
  • Cannot be certified by midwives, physical therapists, etc.

Applications for medical preferential loading can be requested by calling WSF at 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. WSF never sends applications directly to the patient/customer.

The Medical Preferential Load Program Rules and Regulations (pdf 98 kb) document has complete details on this program. 

Arrival times for approved medical preferential loading 

For the San Juan Islands:

  • Customers are required to arrive 30 minutes before sailing time.
  • Customers who arrive before the vessel has departed but after the gate is closed will not be able to board.

For all other routes:

  • Customers are required to arrive at least 20 minutes before sailing time.
  • We cannot guarantee boarding for late arrivals.
  • We will try to load late arrivals if space and time permits, but will not hold vessels or delay sailings for late arrivals.

Service animals

Service animals are welcome anywhere at a terminal or on a ferry. Contact terminal staff for loading procedures as the vessel and terminal layouts vary. Animals that are not people-friendly should be muzzled or transported in a pet carrier.

If you have a pet and not a service animal, learn the rules about pets on our page about what you can bring aboard a ferry.  

Trip assistance and attendant travel

All WSF employees have critical functions to perform during loading and unloading operations. With this in mind, we will make every attempt to assist you, dependent on time, safety and employee availability.

If you need assistance with transport, wheelchair, etc., please bring an attendant. All terminals have wheelchairs available upon request. If you have an attendant endorsement, for both the WSF Disability Travel Permit and the ORCA RRFP, attendants ride free as passengers/walk-ons.

Attended care for groups

WSF operates a program for organizations that transport large groups of customers who need assistance (such as senior centers, nursing homes and assisted living centers) that allows support staff to travel without paying additional fares. To apply for a permit for your organization through this program, please contact us at 888-808-7977.

ADA Paratransit Identification Card

Ride paratransit (Dial-a-Ride) transportation within the greater Puget Sound region and nationally. Applications and cards are distributed by local transit agencies. Riders can travel and transfer among all transit agencies including WSF. Out-of-state paratransit ID cards are honored by WSF. Attendant endorsement is available with this card.  

Accessibility contact information

  • Customer service and general information: 206-464-6400 
  • Toll-Free in Washington and British Columbia: 888-808-7977 
  • Travel information hotline: 511
  • Accessibility coordinator: 206-515-3437
  • Sign up for route-specific ADA email alerts.

ADA Notice

WSDOT will modify its policies, practices, and procedures to ensure individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in its programs, services, or activities unless the modification fundamentally alters the program, service, or activity, creates a safety issue, or is not otherwise required by the ADA. Requests for modification can be made to any WSDOT employee or at wsdotada@wsdot.wa.gov or by calling toll free 855-362-4ADA (4232). Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing may make a request by calling the Washington state telecommunications relay service at 711.