Britain has a wide array of tourist destinations that support and welcome visitors with access needs and disabilities: here are 12 of the best.
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1. Science Museum, London A celebration of the wonders of technology in the service of our daily lives. The museum’s collections include an impressive 18th century steam engine, the Apollo 10 command module and everyday technological marvels from 1750 to the present. Every part of the museum is accessible by ramp or lift (except for a couple of raised walkways). Everything is at just the right height. Tactile signage and touch tours are available for some exhibitions along with large print and braille information. A loan wheelchair is available. There is ample disabled parking.
2. The London Eye One of the capital’s most postcard-friendly assets, a 30 minute circuit affords great views of the city. The ticket hall and capsules are wheelchair accessible. Disabled visitors pay a discounted rate with one carer free of charge. Groups of less than four are fast tracked to the front of the queue. Wheelchairs are available for use and there is an accessible toilet.
3. The Great North Museum, Newcastle Highlights of the new £26million museum include a large-scale, interactive model of Hadrian's Wall, major new displays showing the wonder and diversity of the animal and plant kingdoms, spectacular objects from the Ancient Greeks and mummies from Ancient Egypt, a planetarium and a life-size T-Rex dinosaur skeleton. Recent renovations have created a fully accessible building. Large print and Braille gallery guides. Tactile objects; BSL and subtitled videos; and BSL tours (on demand). Hearing Loops throughout.
4. National Theatre – Silver ‘Access for All’ winner 2009 At the heart of the south bank complex, the national has produced over six hundred plays. Its three auditoriums put on a wide range of drama productions. The theatre publishes an access guide online and employs a full-time accessibility manager for a seamless visit.
5. Cadbury World – Silver ‘Access for All’ winner 2011 Visiting Cadbury’s chocolate factory in the heart of Bourneville, where they boast the biggest chocolate shop in the world is the closest any of us will probably get to visiting Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Facilities are almost completely accessible (staircase to packing facility) and priority can often be given when queuing. The Cadabra ride has a wheelchair accessible Beanmobile and a dog-sitter can be provided when visiting the production areas.
6. The National Space Centre, Leicester The UK’s largest planetarium and exhibition of space exploration where you can test your suitability for a career as an astronaut and enjoy a futuristic cinema experience. Plenty of accessible parking spaces and a lift to all floors. Displays are easily accessible and well spaced apart. Touch tours can be arranged in advance, large print guides are available and most audio exhibits are subtitled.
7. The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, Northern Ireland One of the most beautiful, rugged landscapes on earth and a World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway mixes myth, legend and natural phenomena. It is the most popular attraction in Northern Ireland, and its Visitor Centre has just undergone a major overhaul and is now managed by the National Trust. The new Visitor Centre was designed in consultation with Disability Action and other major access organisations to ensure access for all, and features include hearing loops, an ‘interpretation area’ suitable for visually impaired and wheelchair users as well as a fully accessibly clifftop path including wheelchair access.
NB: The National Trust has fantastic properties across Britain and allows free admission to the carers of disabled visitors. Their Access Guide is a free publication with essential information for people with access needs. See their accessibility page for details and to download.
8. Titanic Belfast is surrounded by a paved plaza, which is fully accessible. The brand new attraction was designed with wheelchairs users in mind, with integrated loop systems for hearing impaired visitors on all audio, and with regular seating areas throughout the attraction.
9. The Wales Coastal Path is the country’s newest countryside attraction and a world first, providing a pathway around the entire coastline of Wales, which encircles the whole country along with the Offa’s Dyke Path that crosses the Anglo-Welsh border. Along the coast are routes that offer an appealing and enjoyable experience to anyone with restricted mobility or for those simply seeking a less challenging walk. Wheelchair and baby buggy friendly routes can also be found along the way, with access paths and boardwalks provided at several of the most beautiful points.
10. Beaches in Wales There are dozens of beautiful beaches around the coast of Wales, many of which are fully accessible for users with access needs and disabilities. Benllech on Anglesey (the island that is home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) is situated on the east coast of Anglesey and is one of the most popular of the island's holiday villages. Set in a crescent-shaped bay, its pleasant beach of fine golden sand and clear blue waters are exceptionally safe for bathing and paddling, and has excellent disabled facilities and practical access for both prams and disabled visitors. Swansea Bay Promenade offers an excellent view of the bay with ramped access on to the beach close to the Marina.
11. The Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre in Scotland tells the story of one of Scotland’s most famous battles and the whole attraction is brilliant for visitors with additional needs. Wheelchairs and powered scooters can be borrowed and used within the building and on the battlefield itself. The exhibition uses different mediums to convey the story of Culloden: a battlefield guide is available to take out onto the site which displays text, video and still images with audio that corresponds to the point you are on the battlefield using Geographic Positioning Software (GPS) and other formats for people with sensory impairments. The battlefield paths and roof access are wheelchair accessible and suitable for mobility vehicles, prams and buggies.
12. For those who want to get back to nature, fishing on the Lake of Menteith is a truly Scottish experience. There is a boat provision at the Lake of Menteith Fishery which provides fishing and boating opportunities for wheelchair users and enables all visitors of any fishing ability to try their hand at catching a winner!