Today we have a guest blog from Srin from Accomable. It is great to have the inside word on getting around London from a local.
My name is Srin. I’m a wheelchair user who’s lived in London all my life. I’m also the co-founder of a tech startup called Accomable (an “Airbnb for people with mobility difficulties”) and love to encourage more people with a disability to travel.
As such, I thought I’d share this blog post on The Great, The Good, The Bad and The Annoying of travelling as a disabled person to my hometown and favourite city in the world.
London is the kind of city where there will be something to do no matter what you’re into. It’s an exciting, cosmopolitan and vibrant city that is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities from across the world. Cutting edge modernity sits alongside ancient to create a unique vibrancy that you won’t find in many parts of the world.
Many of London’s iconic attractions and sites are wheelchair accessible. Being a total nerd, I love going around the landmark museums (which are all free to enter!) such as the British Museum or The Natural History Museum. I also just love wandering around the City and wheeling down the South Bank, where you get a great view of sites like Big Ben, the London Eye and St Paul’s Cathedral.
Moreover, being a complete foodie, even though I’ve lived in London all my life, I will never have a shortage of new places to try out. Just the other day, I discovered a really awesome restaurant in Brixton serving food from Eritrea.
As all buses and black cabs are wheelchair accessible, it is relatively easy to get around London, compared to many other European cities. While footpaths are narrow and winding, the vast majority of kerbs have drop-downs.
While many restaurants, cafes, hotels etc will have wheelchair access and adapted bathrooms, this can some times be a little a hit and miss. So even though there are many options, it’s always good to call ahead. Having said this, there are enough accessible amenities to satisfy whatever your interests are.
I am a big lover of open spaces. Being a crowded city, there aren’t that many in London, but parks like Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and Clapham Common are awesome on a sunny day.
Most people in London ‘get’ what accessible means. So if you call up a hotel or restaurant, people are usually understanding and helpful if you need to find out about wheelchair access.
A few parts of the London Underground are accessible. Not enough of it is, but where it is accessible, it’s actually really good. The Jubilee Line between Green Park and Stratford, the Docklands Light Railway and a handful of stations on other lines have lifts and raised platform humps. Staff on the underground are usually well informed and understanding of accessibility needs. Transport for London produce an excellent and informative set of accessibility guides which I strongly recommend taking a look through when coming to London.
London is really busy and packed wherever you go. It’s always crowded. Even though this creates an awesome vibrancy and buzz, as a wheelchair user navigating through busy streets and public areas can be a pain.
If you’re interested in theatre and watching a famous West End production, just be prepared for the fact that many of the theatres were built a very long time ago. While some venues have been retrofitted with access; be prepared to end up using small elevators, narrow aisles and bathrooms that are cramped.
The other thing that grates is traffic. As the London Underground is mostly inaccessible, be prepared for lots of slow moving taxi or bus journeys as a tourist!
London is expensive. Needing accessibility makes this worse! Hotels are pricey and if you can’t use the London Underground, using black cabs can cost a lot. Everyone in London moans about this all the time, but it is what it is.
Thanks again to Srin for providing a valuable insight into travelling around London.
Accomable have listings for accessible London apartments on their website here. We certainly find apartment accommodation saves our travel budget with the ability to self-cater and we appreciate the extra space.
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HEATHER DARE says
I TOO FIND TRAVEL COSTS EXPENSIVE, BUT HAVE THE ATTITUDE THAT IT IT IS NECESSARY FOR ME TO HAVE A CARER FOR PERSONAL CARE AND TALKING AS I CANNOT SPEAK OR WALK. FINDING AN ACCESSIBLE TOILET IS MY BUG BEAR!
MY COUNCIL HAS RECENTLY PU OUT A MAP OF ACCESSIBLE TOILETS, WHICH HELPS. YOU CAN RELY ON SOME CHAIN-STORES USUALLY. I HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO FIND THE FIRST STORE BUILT IN AUSTRALIA WITHOUT AN ACCESSIBLE TOILET!
Great to read of your positive attitude and that you are still travelling despite the cost. I think with the development of more apps the information will be easier to get regarding accessible toilets. I know that Spinal Cord Injuries Australia have an accessible toilets resource too.