With its busy streets, and narrow, Victorian buildings with lots of steps, London’s not always the most accessible of destinations. It was only after spending some time with a former colleague that I realised how difficult it can be for some people to get around. Because of a medical condition, my colleague needed to spend time in one of these wheelchairs from Fenetic Wellbeing. The many hazards she encoutered included bad parking, roadworks and throngs of pedestrians. It was hardly an accessible London for her.
But big efforts have been made to attract disabled visitors to London. Transport for London provide a London Underground Disabled Access map. Around a quarter of Tube stations, half of Overground stations, most piers, all tram stops, the Emirates Air Line and all DLR stations have step-free access. All black taxi cabs have a wheelchair ramp. All bus routes are served by low-floor vehicles, with a dedicated space for one wheelchair user and an access ramp. Buses can also be lowered to reduce the step-up from the pavement.
It’s still not good enough. Wheelchair spaces are often filled up by parents in buggies, who have to fold up their prams to make way. There isn’t always room for everyone on board. But it’s a start.
And there are plenty of interesting places to visit in London, which have accessible buildings. These include Wembley Stadium, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and four of our favourite places:
Accessibility at ZSL London Zoo
ZSL London is home to an incredible variety of animals: big cats, lemurs, komodo dragons and many more species of birds, mammals and reptiles. Despite the fact that the zoo is 170 years old and contains 12 listed buildings, most of it is accessible for wheelchair users and those with walking difficulties. The zoo has a limited number of wheelchairs, and one mobility scooter, for hire. Assistance dogs are permitted, following a briefing by the on-site Animal Duty Manager.
Accessibility at Tate Modern
Tate Modern is housed in the former Bankside Power Station and opened in 2000. The UK’s largest collection of modern art is a relatively recent development, with a new wing that opened in 2016, so it’s all relatively accessible by London standards. There’s detailed information about ramps, lifts and handrails at each of the five entrances on the Tate website.
Tate Modern welcomes assistance dogs, with a drinking bowl available at the cloakroom. Wheelchairs and electric scooters are available with pre-booking. Visitors with differing needs can pick up audio guides, audio described tours or ear defenders. There is a hearing loop in some areas and BSL talks.
Accessibility at Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum holds the first T-rex fossil ever found, as well as an Iguanadon skeleton and a Triceratops skull. It also premiers images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
All deaf and disabled people, and their accompanying family members and personal carers can jump the queues to enter the Museum. For people with visual impairment, there are audio descriptive guides for the Hintze Hall, Images of Nature, Human Evolution, Volcanoes and Earthquakes, Treasures in the Cadogan Gallery and Orbit: A Journey Around Earth in Real Time. Tactile and Braille books, and large-print gallery guides are also available. The Museum runs British Sign Language deaf-led tours around the Spirit Collection. Induction loops are built in at the information desks and ticket desks. Dawnosaurs runs four times a year for children with neurodiverse conditions including autism and other sensory processing difficulties.
Accessibility at British Museum
The British Museum’s main entrance is impressive: a Greek Revival quadrangle with awe-inspiring colonnades. Inside, its collection reflects the country’s internationally focused history, with exhibits from around the world including the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures and the mummies in the Ancient Egypt collection.
The British Museum entrance has 12 steps, but there are self-operable lifts on both sides. There are some disabled parking spaces outside the museum, and you can borrow a wheelchair for gallery viewing. Most galleries and all special exhibitions are fully accessible. Visitors can download an AccessAble guide from the British Museum website, which gives more details. Assistance dogs are welcome at the British Museum, with a dog bowl and water available on request at the information desk. Subject to availability, portable folding stools are available to borrow.
Have you visited any accessible London attractions? Or any that were not so good for people with accessibility needs?
This is a collaborative post.
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