London is one of the most popular city break destinations in the world. Many visitors from around the world come to England and for many London is at the top of their list to visit. In this article I look at what there is to see and do in the city for the disabled visitor.
The Palace is probably the most visited attraction in London.
The Changing of the Guard attracts many visitors to see the pomp and colour of the ceremony. The ceremony takes place at 11.00am. During the months August to May the ceremony takes place on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. During June and July the ceremony takes place daily. The only place that you can watch the Changing of the Guard is from the pavement outside the railings. So if you are in a wheelchair my advice is to get there nice and early, though if you talk nicely to a helpful policemen, they may be able to help you find a good place to watch the ceremony from in safety.
But at certain times of the year the Palace opens its doors to the public, usually during the summer months. The Palace is wheelchair accessible but you will need to use a separate step free entrance at the front of the palace. The staterooms are wheelchair accessible and there are lifts. The Palace do state that to be able to use the lifts wheelchairs need to be compatible with the lifts inside Buckingham Palace. The lifts measure 148cm in depth by 94 cm in width with a weight limit of 500kg; and 160cm in depth by 94cm in width with a weight limit of 750kg. However it is possible to borrow a manual wheelchair for your visit but this would need to be booked in advance. The Palace also have Rollator walking frames that can also be borrowed if booked prior to your visit.
Assistance dogs are welcome but are requested to wear their jacket or lead slip. The Palace do state they reserve the right to ask an assistance dog owner to leave if it is deemed to be behaving inappropriately.
There are accessible toilets at the start of the Access Route, in the gardens and a Changing Places Room in the Royal Mews.
A couple of things to remember are that as the building is old it does have some uneven surfaces and most of the rooms are carpeted and some have polished wooden floors.
That said the staterooms are very opulent and spectacularly beautiful with many artworks by famous artists. There are 19 staterooms on the tour and these are the rooms that are used to entertain and receive important guests. Much of what you see on the tour was designed by John Nash for King George IV.
Among the highlights of the tour are the White Drawing Room, one of the grandest of all the staterooms. This is where the Royal Family gather before official occasions and where the King receives important guests.
The Throne Room is very dramatic with its canopy over the chairs of estate. The room was designed by John Nash, who drew on his experience as a theatre set designer for his inspiration.
The largest of all the staterooms is the Ballroom. This room was originally known as the Ball and Concert Room and has a musician’s gallery complete with an organ. This is where the Royal Family hold State Banquets and Investiture Ceremonies.
The Palace does offer concessionaire prices for disabled visitors and you can take a companion free. However these have to be booked in advance. To find our more you should email [email protected] .
It may surprise you to find out that Tower Bridge is an accessible tourist attraction, but it is. Disabled visitors can get a concession admission price and a companion gets free entry.
Tower Bridge is an attraction of two parts the bridge itself and the Victorian Engine Rooms and both parts of the attraction are step free and wheelchair accessible. There are two lifts inside each tower up to the walkway and there is a glass floor in the centre of the walkway and two solid floors either side, so you can look down on the traffic going across the bridge and the river traffic below. The glass floor is strong enough to take a power chair or mobility scooter, as the Tower Bridge website states it is strong enough to carry the ‘combined weight of two black cabs and an elephant’. There is also an external lift down to the Victorian Engine Rooms so you can see how the bridge is raised to let ships through.
On the third Saturday of every month the bridge has a relaxed opening that allows visitors with autism or neuro-diversity disabilities to explore the bridge in a calm environment. This involves limiting the numbers, muting loud soundscapes and turning off video presentations. They also turn off hand driers in the toilets and replace them with paper towels. To join one of these relaxed openings you need to book in advance.
There are two quiet rooms that are located in the South Tower. The rooms are equipped with a sink, soap, paper towels and a couple of seats and the lights can be dimmed.
On the last Saturday of the month you can join a guided tour with a British Sign Language interpreter that is included in the price, however you can also hire a BSL guide at other times for £75 per hour for 1 – 15 hearing impaired or deaf visitors.
If you have hearing aids there are fixed induction loops are available at the Ticket Office, North Tower, at the Engine Rooms entrance and in the gift shop. To use the loop, you will need to switch your hearing aid to the ‘T’ position.
Visually impaired guests can borrow a braille or high contrast guide book from the ticket office. Guests are encouraged to feel all parts of the structure within reach including the walls, rivets etc.
There are accessible toilets in the South Tower and in the Engine Rooms. There are two Changing Places facilities nearby in the Tower of London and London Bridge Rail Station.
Assistance Dogs are welcome at Tower Bridge.
You can also borrow a wheelchair from the ticket office but it is advisable to check its availability and book it ahead of your arrival.