Riders with disabilities

Washington State Ferries is committed to providing equal access to our riders with disabilities. This page provides tools and resources for planning your trip. The page includes the following information:

Accessibility features on ferries

We have 21 ferries with different ages, designs, and levels of accessibility. Visit our real-time travel map to see which ferries are assigned to the route that you plan to travel on. Vessels are assigned to different routes - sometimes on extremely short notice - depending on the time of year and vessel maintenance and repair needs.

Information about each vessel’s accessibility can be found on the vessel by class page. 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.

Route-specific alerts

Sign up for route-specific email alerts to be notified when vessels are delayed, elevators or restrooms are out of service, and other information that may affect your trip.

Drivers and passengers in vehicles

For most routes, you should plan to be in line at the tollbooth at least 20 minutes in advance of the sailing during off-peak travel periods. During peak travel periods, you may need to wait one or more sailings before being able to load. Check our Best Times to Travel page for more information. 

If you have a vehicle reservation or are using medical preferential loading, you will need to arrive more than 20 minutes in advance. Check the vehicle reservation page or the medical preferential loading section below for guidance on when to arrive.

If you have a special loading request (placement near an elevator or car deck restroom, egress on the left or right side of the vehicle, etc.) please arrive early and notify the ticket seller. Vehicle spaces that allow for specific access are allocated on a first-come, space available basis.

Walk-on passengers

We recommend walk-on passengers arrive at least 20 minutes before most sailings. Passengers may ask terminal and vessel personnel for assistance. Types of assistance can include, but are not limited to: assistance in boarding, requesting to use a WSF wheelchair if one is available, and notification when boarding begins.

Reduced fare tickets

People with disabilities may qualify for reduced passenger fares (half the regular passenger fare rate) on any route. Those who also require attendant care while traveling may obtain an endorsement to allow their attendant to travel free of charge. Drivers with disabilities can also receive a discount on their vehicle and driver fares. Only the passenger portion of the vehicle and driver fare is discounted. The amount discounted for a round-trip vehicle and driver fare is equal to the amount dicounted for a round-trip passenger ticket.   

To request the reduced fare, please present identification verifying disability eligibility to the ticket seller when purchasing a ticket.

Examples of identification forms accepted include, but are not limited to*:

  • WSF Disability Travel Permit
  • ORCA Regional Reduced Fare Permit
  • The identification card that is issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles with Accessible Parking Placards (NOT the placard itself)
  • Medicare Card
  • Seattle Flash Card
  • Other regional transit ADA ID cards that identifies the holder of the card as a person with a disability

*ID cards that are not accepted include those issued by the Veteran’s Administration and the Washington State Parks & Recreation Commission.

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

The Washington State Ferries (WSF) Disability Travel Permit allows qualifying customers to receive reduced passenger fares on any route. This permit is free and is valid only on WSF routes.

To qualify for the permit, customers must have a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and must submit an application (pdf 464 kb) verifying certification of eligibility from an approved health care provider.

To request an application, please contact us at 206-464-6400.

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 scheduled 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, 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 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 218 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 30 minutes before sailing time.
  • We cannot guarantee boarding for late arrivals.
  • We will try to load late arrivals if space and time permits. However, we cannot hold vessels or delay sailings for late arrivals.

Service animals

Service animals are allowed in all public areas of the terminals and vessels, as required by state and federal law. Employees are authorized to inquire whether an animal is a service animal, whether the animal is for a person with a disability, and what task the animal is trained to perform. Owners must be in control of their animals at all times.

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 wheelchair transport, luggage, etc., please bring an attendant. Some terminals may have wheelchairs available upon request. WSF wheelchairs must be returned to the terminal after being used to transport passengers onto the vessel. Attendants may travel free of charge with customers who have an attendant care endorsement on their WSF Disability Travel Permit or ORCA RRFP card.

If you know you will need assistance on a specific sailing, please call us at 206-464-6400 at least 24 hours in advance to make arrangements.

Ferry personnel cannot provide physical assistance transferring a passenger from a seat to a wheelchair, assistance in the restroom, or with eating.

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.

Disability discrimination complaints

Any individual, group, or entity who believes they have been subjected to discrimination based on disability with regard to any WSF activity, facility, program or service are encouraged to consult the WSDOT External ADA Grievance Procedure (pdf 80 kb). Complaints may be filed by contacting:

  • Customer service: 206-464-6400
    • Toll-Free in Washington and British Columbia: 888-808-7977
  • WSDOT’s Office of Equal Opportunity: wsdotada@wsdot.wa.gov
  • WSF ADA Accessibility coordinator: 206-515-3437

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.

WSDOT ADA Transition Plan

The latest version can be found on our Equal Opportunity Americans with Disabilities Act page.