For travellers with access needs, London is a frustrating mix of user-friendliness and head-in-the-sand disinterest. New hotels and modern tourist attractions are legally required to be accessible to people in wheelchairs, but many historic buildings, B&Bs and guesthouses are in older buildings, which are hard or prohibitively expensive to adapt. Similarly, visitors with vision, hearing or cognitive impairments will find their needs met in a piecemeal fashion.
The good news is that as a result of hosting the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and thanks to a forward-looking tourist board in VisitEngland, things are improving all the time.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Various websites offer useful information.
VisitLondon (www.visitlondon.com/traveller-information/essential-information/accessible-london) The tourist board's accessible travel page has useful links and information on accessible shops, hotels and toilets.
Accessible London (http://www.disabledgo.com/accessible-london-visit-london) Professionally audited guide, produced by DisabledGo, to access in the city.
Transport for London (www.tfl.gov.uk/transport-accessibility/) All the information you’ll need to get around London on public transport, including 'how to' videos and a live Twitter feed keeping you up to date on transport access issues such as out-of-order lifts.
Accessible Travel Online Resources (http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/world/accessible-travel-online-resources-2017) Lonely Planet’s guide offers many more useful links to get the best out of your visit to London.
Several organisations have a UK-wide remit.
Action on Hearing Loss (0808 808 0123, textphone 0808 808 9000; www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk) This is the main organisation working with deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK. Many ticket offices and banks are fitted with hearing loops to help the hearing-impaired; look for the ear symbol.
Disability Rights UK Umbrella organisation for voluntary groups for people with disabilities. Many wheelchair-accessible toilets can be opened only with a special Royal Association of Disability & Rehabilitation (Radar) key, which can be obtained via the website or from tourist offices for £5.40.
Royal National Institute for the Blind The UK's main charitable institution for people with sight loss.
- Around a quarter of tube stations, half of overground stations, most piers, all tram stops, the Emirates Air Line (cable car) and all DLR stations have step-free access. However, even if your starting and destination tube stations have step-free access, stations where you interchange may not and there is always the dreaded gap between train and platform to mind – careful planning and notification of a staff member are recommended before you board a train.
- Buses are a much better bet: all can be lowered to street level when they stop and wheelchair users travel free. A recent court case has confirmed that wheelchair users have priority use of the wheelchair space over pram (stroller) users, and bus drivers should back you up if a buggy is blocking the space.
- All black cabs are wheelchair-accessible, but power wheelchair users should note that the space is tight and sometimes headroom is insufficient. This should improve as a new fleet of more accessible black cabs is phased in over the next couple of years.
- Guide dogs are universally welcome on public transport and in hotels, restaurants, attractions etc.
- Throughout the capital pavements are generally in good repair, pedestrian crossings relatively frequent and well placed, and kerb cuts sufficient not to leave you stranded. The further you get from the centre of London, the more likely it is that you'll have the occasional issue with a missing kerb cut.