Getting around London on two wheels has never been easier, but we’re not talking about cycling here. London is reputed to be one of the most wheelchair accessible cities in the world, and that inclusivity is cause for celebration. We can, however, do better. Because while many of the main tourist attractions are near one another, and doable by pavement, others tend to the far flung, presenting problems to those with mobility issues wanting to use public transport. It’s important then, to be savvy and educated before setting out for a day of adventure in the capital. So, whether you have a folding wheelchair from Pro Rider Mobility or mobility scooter, here are 6 IDEAL wheelchair accessible travel tips for London tourists.
FORGET THE TUBE
The London Underground is infuriating at the best of times and with just a handful of underground stations fully accessible, those in a wheelchair should consider giving the tube a swerve all together. Parts of the network are more than 150 years old (a time when accessibility wasn’t thought about as considerately as now) and today only 71 out of 270 tube stations are accessible by wheelchair. As such, chances are the station you’re leaving from and your destination may well not be wheelchair friendly.
While London still needs to spend some pennies on disabled access, if you do want experience the underground, then make use of the step free tube map guide.You can also plan your route on TFL, adding your requirements and preferences to the journey. Oh, and all the stations with lifts have staff on hand with ramps to assist you onto the tube, so just ask.
BETTER BY BUS
One of the easiest and cheapest (and in our view, best) ways to travel around London is by bus. All London buses are low-floor and fitted with a hydrolic ramp and as such, are able to ‘’kneel’ to the curb making it easy for wheelchair users to roll on. They also have a designated space for wheelchairs from which you can see the streets of London as you travel. And the best bit? You can travel on London buses for free if you are a wheelchair user. Some of the best routes include:
- The number 11, which begins at Liverpool Street and ends at Victoria Station, passes many iconic must-see sights including St Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
- The number 73 is another good one, starting at Victoria and finishing in uber trendy Stoke Newington. Taking you past Buckingham Palace Gardens, Hyde Park, Marble Arch and along the whole stretch of busy Oxford Street and through Islington, you get to see London in all its glory.
TAKE A RIDE OR TWO IN A BLACK CAB
You can’t come to London without experiencing one of the city’s iconic black cabs, all of which are wheelchair-accessible (well, the licensed ones anyway). Known as ‘The Knowledge’ – which you’d be forgiven for thinking is some sort of London cult – is something all cabbies must know in order to get their license. This involves learning by heart the some 320 routes through the 25,000 streets of London. This atlas of London, imprinted in black cabbies brains typically takes between two and four years to learn and part of the process involves having to remember 100,000 landmarks and being able to navigate between them. These black cabs are easy to hail from the street, but you can also make advanced bookings online or via the phone by this one number: 0871 871 8710.
SEE THE CITY BY BOAT
From sightseeing tours by bus to guided museum trips, there are many accessible tours of London available, however one of the best has got to be by boat. Indeed, one of the easiest and most picturesque ways to see the sights of London is by cruising down the Thames. Setting sail at sunset serves up spectacular, scenic views of London, and is a great way to see day turning to night in the capital.
PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
When visiting any big city, if you don’t plan your trip it can be a completely different experience, full of stress, frustration, and most crucially, wasted time. Therefore a little research goes a long way; essential for you to really enjoy London. While many tourist attractions have accessible side entrances, some don’t, so it’s wise to call ahead first and check if it exists and where exactly it’s located, that way you’ll know where to go as soon as you arrive, giving you more time to take in the sights.
It’s also important to be aware of where won’t be so accommodating. London’s West End, for instance, is home to some of the oldest theatres in the world, with some up to 400 years old. While these historic places of performance are stunning, the drawback is that disabled access is often limited. Therefore, if you’re planning on going to see a show, it’s a good idea to call ahead first to see if the show you’re thinking of seeing meets your requirements.
To avoid any hiccups, make sure you have everything that you need for a big day out in the city. If you have an electric wheelchair, then bring a spare charger just incase. A phone to call those black cabs is a good idea too. Also, lots of cafes, pubs and tourists attractions across London have accessible toilets that are part of the National Key Scheme (NKS).This offers disabled people independent access to locked public toilets across London and around the country. If you’re entitled to one, it’s a good idea to get it sent to you before your tip.