Please sign in to post.

Is London handicap accessible?

I am planning a trip to London and would love for my sister to go, she is mobile but has early onset Parkinson's and tires easily and cannot walk for extended lengths of time.. has anyone used a mobile Chair or scooter while in London and how accessible is London transit to accommodate handicap travelers?
Thanks!!

Posted by
4697 posts

Like many places in Europe, there will be challenges. However, I've seen multiple reports from people with mobility challenges who have managed London and I recall one of the readers of this forum posting his report on using a scooter. You might want to search on "scooter" to see if you can find his posts.

A couple of general suggestions just based on my observations:

1) You will want to focus on using the buses rather than the tube. Many tube stations are not accessible. The TFL website has lots of info: https://tfl.gov.uk/transport-accessibility/

2) When you look for hotels, specifically ask if they have an accessible room. Some of the chains will allow you to reserve an accessible room on their website, but smaller hotels in older buildings may not have this option.

3) In restaurants, it is not unusual to find the toilets located in the basement down a flight of stairs.

I'm sure you can make it work with some planning.

Posted by
50 posts

We haven't been to London since my husband has been restricted to a wheelchair but we do have some experience with a progressive disease like Parkinson's. First, there will be a big difference in accessibility between a scooter and a folding wheelchair. She will have greater freedom with a scooter since she can more easily control her own navigation, however a folding wheelchair with large back wheels and smaller front wheels will enable her to either roll around by pushing the large wheels herself (suitable for short distances) or be pushed (much less tiring for her!). The big blessing of a folding wheelchair is that, when faced with that unavoidable high curb or short flight of stairs, it can be fairly easily carried up while she walks up.

You might want to check out Sage Traveling, which specializes in travel for those restricted to a wheelchair. Their webpage on London accessibility is http://www.sagetraveling.com/london-accessible-travel

Posted by
1839 posts

We brought a transport chair for our daughter to London in 2015. She can walk but tires easily, so the chair worked great. Some tube stops have elevators, some don't. We tried to use tube stops with elevators, but in cases where they didn't have them she could do stairs and then she'd go back into the chair. It worked out fine, but it is quite tiring for the pusher and lifter of the chair! Just get a light chair (about 20-25 lbs) so you can pick it up getting into the tube. But, London is pretty walkable, so you could minimize public transport and do a lot of walking. Just get into good shape! I'm glad my hubby was good and strong for that job.

Posted by
27744 posts

over 50 years ago my grandfather had Parkinson's in London. my oh my how treatments for the disease and accessibility have changed since then.

Most pavements now have kerb cuts, all businesses but the very smallest have put in ramps, and many who haven't have temporary ones, all the bigger supermarket outlets have trolleys which can be attached to wheelchairs and provide loaner scooters; even many National Trust properties provide scooters or golf carts. Most lifts (elevators) have wheelchair height buttons. Transport for London ut out an accessibility map and assistance can be obtained for train journeys. All black cabs now need to be wheelchair accessible, as are most buses.

There are down sides, too. Many of the facilities put in at the time of Paralympics in London have not been maintained or improved since (we are on an austerity budget seemingly for the rest of my natural life). While many larger restaurants and hotels with toilets in the basement have disabled facilities on the ground floor, many still don't. Always ask what provision there is - you may be surprised to find that there is accommodation that you didn't expect.

We don't use the term "handicap" in this country, it is seen as offensive by many. Disabled is what we use.

She might invest in a RADAR key (I think they currently are around £3) which will get her into locked public disabled toilets.

For locations like train travel and other places where a human is required for assistance or supplies may be short - like gardens providing transport - a reservation or pre-booking is usually required.

An excellent summary is at https://tfl.gov.uk/transport-accessibility/wheelchair-access-and-avoiding-stairs

Posted by
11288 posts

Rick used to have a book, Easy Access Europe. It's now outdated, but he does post it free on this website. It should be a good general introduction, and not only has London information, but a specific Westminster "walking tour" modified for wheelchairs: https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/read/easy-access-europe

Here's his webpage of general tips; on the right in grey are more specific sources of information: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/trip-planning/travelers-with-disabilities

Posted by
4684 posts

Very large mobility scooters may not be allowed on buses.

Posted by
823 posts

I researched mobility scooters in London when we took my 80yo mother. There are rental agencies that will deliver right to your hotel or apartment. (http://www.mobilityequipmenthiredirect.com/shopcontent.asp?type=Mobility-Equipment-Hire-London-Office) But, as previous posters have said, large scooters may not be allowed on buses. I would try to clarify with TFL what size restrictions they have for the buses before you rent anything.

Also, don't rely on the tube system being "accessible." There is an accessibility page on the TFL web site but we found lifts and escalators unreliable.

We went to London intending on using the tube to get around but we ended up taking the bus most of the time. We found the bus a lot easier on my mother...

BTW - when in London, accessing the TFL website on your mobile device (on the go) can be indispensable for getting around on buses.