If you have a disability, travelling is rarely straight forward. So that’s why we’ve teamed up with Carrie-Ann Lightley from Tourism for All, to bring you a series of articles to help make travelling and disabled holidays easier and more accessible. Here, she rounds up the top 10 accessible tourist destination from across the capital.
Like many cities, some parts of London are very accessible, while others can be a nightmare for disabled visitors. So, to ensure you have an enjoyable trip, I’ve rounded up my favourite easily-accessible places in London, from famous attractions to restaurants and bars, as well as my top tips with tips on getting around.
Getting around London
London’s cabs are accessible, with features including ramps, swivel seats, grab bars, hearing loops, and the possibility to travel with assistance dogs. You can even take a black taxi tour around the city!
London’s buses are free for wheelchair users, which is great for those on a budget. They have ramps, wheelchair spaces, priority seating, and audio-visual information.
Places to visit
Hyde Park has everything, from events and concerts, to sports aself-guided walks. Visitors can take in public speeches at Speakers Corner, swim in the Serpentine Lido or simply relax and enjoy the nature and wildlife. The park is step-free, with accessible parking and toilets, and lots of seating and refreshment areas.
There is a scheme called Liberty Drives, which helps people with mobility impairments to enjoy the park. It even has a buggy that can carry at least four people! Also, Hyde Park Senior Playground has six pieces of accessible exercise equipment designed to help older people improve core strength, flexibility and balance.
London’s South Bank has smooth walkways, ramps, benches and many attractions offering great facilities and services for disabled visitors. These include the London Eye and River Cruise, the Sea Life London Aquarium, the London Dungeon, the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe and the National Theatre.
Alternately, South Bank is a great place to just chill and people watch and enjoy the many street performers. The Visit London website has an Accessible London Maps section, which can help with getting to and navigating around South Bank.
The self-guided audio tour offers a fascinating insight into the history and traditions that make up Parliament, while giving you a glimpse of the beautiful art and architecture inside. The tour starts in the 900-year-old Westminster Hall, and assistants can escort visitors with disabilities from Westminster Hall to Central Lobby. This is particularly interesting, as the accessible route takes you to areas that other visitors don’t usually get to see.
The sheer size of the Palace of Westminster is amazing, and being able to follow the same route as the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament is pretty special. An accessible public toilet, including a changing bench and a hoist, can be found in Lower Waiting Hall, just off Central Lobby.
The Science Museum is full of fun, is interactive, and has interesting exhibitions for all ages, each accessible to the widest range of visitors possible. It is fully wheelchair accessible, has large print accessibility map, Braille resources, events for deaf audiences and audio described events for partially sighted or blind visitors!
Entry is free for all visitors and a limited number of adult and child wheelchairs are available and may either be booked in advance or borrowed on the day of your visit.
The Noel Coward is a grand, traditional London theatre. Wheelchair users have the advantage of private box seating at a special access price (subject to availability), seating one wheelchair user and one companion. The theatre staff are cheerful, friendly and helpful.
Accessible facilities include a ramp, headsets for those with hearing impairments, wheelchair and mobility scooter storage and accessible toilets. The theatre has three bars, which are all accessed via stairs. Staff can bring drinks to customers with access requirements.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club issues an easy access guide to Wimbledon with the purchase of wheelchair tickets. It’s very comprehensive, and contains all the information that a disabled spectator needs to visit the Wimbledon Championships. Each wheelchair ticket comes with a complimentary companion ticket and a wheelchair space and reserved seat.
The grounds themselves are completely flat, with a smooth tarmac surface, ideal for wheelchairs. There is ample room in the wheelchair space, even for a large mobility scooter. Our space at court two had a fabulous view, and a good patch of sunshine!
There are accessible toilets near every court, as well as food outlets that are either level with the ground or ramped. If you are after souvenirs, there are several gift shops and stalls, the largest being near court one, which is more spacious and more accessible than the rest. If you are not fortunate enough to catch a game at Wimbledon, the museum and tour is offered all year round.
Accessible bars and restaurants in London
Bugis offers authentic Singaporean, Malaysian and Chinese cuisine, just around the corner from Kensington High Street. It’s located within the Copthorne Tara hotel, which was one of the first hotels in London to have wheelchair accessible bedrooms.
The restaurant staff are attentive and helpful – nothing is too much trouble. I’ve eaten here many times over the last 10 years, and my favourite dish has to be the Nasi goring – spicy fried rice with chicken, shrimps, vegetables and fried egg on top. Save room for dessert – everyone should try chocolate spring rolls with raspberry dipping sauce once in their life!
London is the home of the original Hard Rock Cafe on swanky Old Park Lane. Dine and drink here for attentive service, a buzzing atmosphere, American-style comfort food and delicious cocktails. It is worth calling ahead to be added to the priority list for diners with access requirements – otherwise you could be up for a very long wait! Hard Rock Cafe London has an accessible toilet.
As someone who feels the cold easily, when I visited Icebar London, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I need not have worried, as a specially designed thermal cape, available to borrow from the venue, fit perfectly over my wheelchair. Coupled with wickedly strong cocktails served in ice glasses, they kept me nice and toasty! The floor is made of non-slip metal, so it easy for those with mobility issues to walk or wheel over. Don’t forget to take photos!
With a funky atmosphere, imaginative decor, good music and quirky cocktails, the Foundation Bar is a great place to visit. As the name suggests, it’s at basement level, but there’s also a platform lift with helpful bouncers to assist those who need it.
A spacious accessible toilet is available, and staff are happy to part the crowds on busy nights. The happy hour includes a great deal on drinks and platters, every day from 5:30 to 7pm. Tables, private parties and queue jumps can be booked in advance.
By Carrie-Ann Lightley
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