London is often my first recommendation when Europeans or non-Europeans ask for a destination that’s welcoming for the disabled. Holidays here can be extremely enjoyable and worthwhile, as it is a forward-thinking city that has taken steps to accommodate those with disabilities. Visually impaired tourists are particularly well thought of, and navigating the streets and public transportation can be simple and straightforward if you are aware of the facilities in place.
Tube Travel for the Visually Impaired
London has an intricate tube network that allows you to quickly get around the city and you are never far from a stop. The facilities in the Underground for blind and visually challenged travellers include an audio version of the tube map (available from customer service), and audio announcements are made at platform level. Some stops also have lifts from platform to street level so that you can avoid the escalators or stairs. On the trains, there are priority seats near the doors and other passengers will vacate these so that you can sit for the duration.
Furthermore, all staff are trained in disability equality and will be happy to assist you in planning your journey and help you onto the correct train. Ask them to call ahead to your destination station so that you can get assistance getting off the tube, if needed.
On London buses, you can travel with confidence as the iBus system delivers audio-visual announcements for the next stop, when to press the button for key attractions, and various other announcements that make the (previously much more confusing) bus system much easier for all.
A fast and efficient way to travel directly to your destination is to order a black cab. This can be done through one of the cab-apps available (Hailo, Gett or Kabbee, to name just a few), or can be ordered in advance over the phone. The reception at your hotel will be able to arrange a driver to come pick you up at the doorstep. Getting a taxi makes your journey less stressful than public transportation and allows you to easily plan a journey from A to B.
For times that you are walking the streets, it is important that you are aware of the blind aid at pedestrian crossings if you struggle to see the lights. The roads can be chaotic, but these aids will help you to cross with confidence. On the control box (with the button) at pedestrian crossings, you will find a small cone on the underside. When it is safe to cross, this cone will spin continuously until it is no longer safe.
I urge you not to simply “follow the crowd”, as manyLondonlocals cross at unsafe times. If you cannot locate the small cone, ask a passer-by for assistance.
Of course, you will also want an accessible hotel if you or a companion is disabled. Holidays to the capital will be much improved by checking into one of these accessible options:
Amba Marble Arch
A luxury hotel only a 2-minute walk from the world-famous Oxford Street, Amba Marble Arch is well situated and has many accessible features. This includes Braille information, wheel-in showers, alarm cords, and high-level toilets. The hotel has its own bar and restaurant, so you don’t always have to head out for an evening’s entertainment.
Situated in the heart of the capital and nearby many cultural attractions, bars and restaurants, Novotel Blackfriars is a great choice for disabled travellers. This is due to its convenient central location, but also the superb facilities which include a lift, wheel-in showers, a fitness centre, sauna, and its own bar and restaurant.
The Royal Horseguards
A spectacular hotel located brilliantly near the London Eye and overlooking the Thames, The Royal Horseguards is the perfect place to retreat to after a day of exploring. It boasts high ceilings, impressive chandeliers and refurbished Victorian décor. The rooms are large, spacious and fully-equipped with a vanity set, TV’s in the bedroom and bathrooms, separate living rooms and more. The award-winning restaurant also comes highly recommended.
I strongly believe that London is a great choice if you or somebody you’re travelling with is disabled. Holidays in the capital are made simple and stress-free due to steps towards greater accessibility taken by the city, including to the public transportation network.
Philip Scott is the owner and founder of Can be Done, a fully licensed UK tour operator specialising in disabled holidays across the world for individuals and groups who are travelling with a handicap. With over 31 years’ experience organising long and short breaks for disabled travellers, Philip has built a reputation for helping his clients select hotels and accommodation that offer high standards of accessibility to ensure that those with special needs can experience truly relaxing and carefree holidays.