Coronavirus update: A message from Handicare about COVID 19

Call 7 days a week for free advice

0800 910 0240

How accessible is the UK?

30th May 2022

There has been a huge push to make the UK accessible to wheelchair users and those with a mobility impairment which has seen buildings and public spaces providing ramps, lifts and other facilities in an effort to improve their accessibility. Although there have been improvements made, there is still room for further developments in certain areas.

But how accessible is the UK? This research looks at airports, attractions, hotels, restaurants, national parks and beaches to see how accessible they are and what offerings they have for visitors with mobility issues who may need to use a walking aid or stairlifts.

Comparing the accessibility features of these different areas has produced some interesting findings, so keep reading to find out:

 

Paid Attractions

 

This study looked at the top 10 most-visited paid attractions in the UK to see if they offered the following accessible facilities: accessible entrances, whether lifts are available, accessible toilets, reduced ticket prices for disabled visitors, assistance dogs welcome, accessible parking, reduced or free tickets for carers and wheelchairs or mobility scooters available to hire.

Key findings

  • 2/10 of the UK’s most-visited paid attractions received a perfect accessibility score.
  • 7/10 of these paid attractions don’t offer reduced ticket prices for disabled visitors.
  • All of the top 10 paid attractions offer free or discounted tickets for carers.
  • 9/10 of these paid attractions offer accessible parking, with the exception being the Tower of London.

Which of the most-visited paid UK attractions are the most accessible?

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and ZSL London Zoo both received perfect accessibility scores.

What has been learned about the accessibility of paid attractions in the UK?

The most-visited paid attractions in the UK seem to provide a healthy level of accessibility. However, improvements can clearly be made to upgrade the experience of those with disabilities. The fact that 7/10 of the paid attractions do not offer reduced ticket prices for those with disabilities suggests that while some of the basic requirements are often met, more can be done to make life easier for those with disabilities, especially if there are parts of the attraction that are not wheelchair friendly or accessible to all.

Vicki, the writer behind the lifestyle and family blog Honest Mum, says the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew can be visited all year round and they loved their visit in the winter months: “We discovered an enchanting Wintery landscape at Kew Garden encompassing grass gardens, a wishing tree, waterfalls, conifers, meadows and more (adorned with the chic-est of festive decorations) with bursts of warmth found within the Princess of Wales Conservatory and the Palm House, an iconic Victorian glasshouse with a Rainforest climate, which operates as a living laboratory supporting a diversity of plants, and felt like a day at a spa (seriously).”

READ MORE: What is the most accessible attraction in the UK?

Click here to go back to the top

Free Attractions

 

This study looked at the top 10 most visited free attractions in the UK to see if they offered the following accessible facilities: accessible entrances, whether lifts are available, accessible toilets, assistance dogs are welcome, accessible parking and if wheelchairs or mobility scooters are available to hire.

Key findings

  • Half of the UK’s top 10 most visited free attractions do not have accessible or disabled parking available on site.
  • 6/10 of these attractions didn’t receive a perfect accessibility score.
  • All of these free attractions provide accessible entrances, accessible toilets, and welcome assistance dogs.

Which of the most visited free UK attractions are the most accessible?

Tate Modern, Natural History Museum, The British Museum, and the Horniman Museum & Gardens all received perfect accessibility scores.

What has been learnt about the accessibility of free attractions in the UK?

With all the attractions providing accessible entrances, accessible toilets, and welcoming assistance dogs, and all but one providing a lift to other levels of the attraction, the UK’s most visited free attractions do a great job when it comes to the basics of making a location accessible for disabled visitors. However, the fact accessible/disabled parking isn’t universally offered on the actual site of all the attractions is a definite area to improve. Providing parking on a nearby street is of course helpful but this can still provide an obstacle for some who would like to visit these popular locations.

For an insight into free attractions, Carrie Ann Lightly runs her own blog and has talked about how accessible the Science Museum in London is: “The Science Museum is full of fun, interactive, experiences and has interesting exhibitions for all ages, each accessible to the widest range of visitors possible. Think full wheelchair accessibility, a large print accessibility map, Braille resources, events for deaf audiences and audio described events for partially sighted or blind visitors! Entry is free for all visitors.”

READ MORE: What are the best outdoor attractions in England?

Click here to go back to the top

Hotels

 

This study looked at the top 10 highest rated UK hotels on TripAdvisor to see if they offered the following accessible facilities: wheelchair accessibility in the hotel, whether lifts are available, accessible rooms, emergency cord in bathrooms and accessible parking.

Key findings

  • 4/10 of the UK’s top 10 highest rated hotels couldn’t be described as wheelchair accessible.
  • 7/10 of the hotels do not offer an emergency cord in the bathroom.
  • 4/10 of the hotels do not offer accessible parking.
  • Not all the hotels offer lift access to upper floors.
  • Only one of hotels achieved a perfect accessibility score.

Which of the UK’s top-rated hotels are the most accessible?

The Royal Lancaster London is the only hotel to receive a perfect accessibility score.

What has been learnt about the accessibility of hotels in the UK?

From looking at this sample size, the UK’s top-rated hotels most certainly have room for improvement. While there are certain hotels that make a great effort, the fact that not even half offer accessible parking and that most don’t offer helpful features like emergency cords is surprising. By making changes like these, as well as making sure that all levels can be accessed by a lift, it will help to make hotels far more welcoming, providing opportunities for those with disabilities to experience the best hotels the UK has to offer.

Click here to go back to the top

Restaurants

 

This study looked at the top 10 best restaurants in the UK as awarded by The Good Food Guide to see if they offered the following accessible facilities: accessible access into the restaurant, accessible toilets, accessible menus and whether assistance dogs were welcome.

Key findings

  • None of the top 10 best restaurants in the UK offer a perfect accessibility score.
  • 8/10 of the restaurants offer an accessible entrance into their restaurant.
  • Only 5/10 of the restaurants offer an accessible toilet.
  • None of the restaurants offer accessible menus.
  • Only 3 of the restaurants welcome assistance dogs.

Which of the UK’s best restaurants are the most accessible?

Core by Clare Smyth, Ynyshir, Moor Hall, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Restaurant Sat Bains and Pollen Street Social were all joint-winners as they offered two of the four accessibility factors the study looked at.

What has been learnt about the accessibility of restaurants in the UK?

The 10 best restaurants in the UK, according to The Good Food Guide, are renowned for serving up some of the best dishes in the world, but they can improve in several areas when it comes to their accessibility. None of the restaurants offer accessible menus, which are menus that can be used by diners who are blind or are visually impaired.

On the flip side, the majority of eateries in The Good Food Guide’s top 10 list boast accessible entrances and half of the restaurants offer accessible toilets. Surprisingly of the 10 restaurants which were looked at, only three (Outlaw's New Road, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Core by Clare Smyth) welcome assistance dogs into their restaurants.

READ MORE: The top accessible UK restaurants with a view

Click here to go back to the top

National Parks

 

This study looked at the UK’s 15 National Parks to see if they offered the following accessible facilities: accessible car parks, accessible visitor centres, accessible toilets, assistance dogs welcome, easier access routes and all-terrain wheelchairs/trampers available to hire.

Key findings

  • 11 of the 15 national parks in the UK received a perfect accessibility score.
  • Of the four national parks that didn’t receive a perfect accessibility score, they still offered 5 out of the 6 accessibility factors the study looked at.
  • All of the 15 national parks in the UK offer accessible car parks, accessible visitor centres, accessible toilets, welcome assistance dogs and have easier access routes.
  • Only 4 out of the 15 national parks do not have all-terrain wheelchairs/trampers that are available to hire.

Which of the UK’s National Parks are the most accessible?

Cairngorms, Exmoor, Lake District, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, New Forest, North York Moors, Peak District, Pembrokeshire Coast, Snowdonia, South Downs, and the Yorkshire Dales received 5/6 accessibility scores. 

What has been learnt about the accessibility of National Parks in the UK?

There are 15 national parks in the UK, 10 of which are in England, three in Wales and two in Scotland. These areas of land are protected by law and were established by the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act.

The research revealed that all the national parks in the UK offer accessible car parks, accessible visitor centres, accessible toilets, welcome assistance dogs and offer easier access routes, which highlights that the national parks do a great job when it comes to making them accessible to visitors with mobility issues.

In fact, 11 of the 15 national parks in the UK received a perfect accessibility score, meaning the only area of improvement that four of the national parks (the Brecon Beacons, the Broads, Dartmoor and Northumberland) need to improve on is offering all-terrain wheelchairs/trampers for visitors to hire.

Emily Morison, who writes about her adventures in a wheelchair on her Able Emily blog, recommends heading to Brockhole if you are in the Lake District. She said: “Brockhole is a lovely, family-friendly place to visit on Windermere and is also accessible via bus, with its own bus stop outside. There’s a café and an accessible walk.”

READ MORE: Accessible national parks in the UK that older people should visit

Click here to go back to the top

Beaches

 

This study looked at the top 10 highest rated beaches according to TripAdvisor to see if they offered the following accessible facilities: accessible toilets, wheelchair access to the beach, accessible parking, wheelchairs available to hire, wheelchair accessible beach huts.

Key findings

  • Only 2 beaches received a perfect accessibility score by offering all five of the accessible facilities.
  • 9 out of 10 of the highest-rated beaches on TripAdvisor in the UK have accessible toilets and offer wheelchair access to the beach.
  • 8 out of 10 offer accessible parking and have wheelchairs available to hire.
  • Only two beaches have wheelchair-accessible beach huts.

Which of the UK’s top-rated beaches are the most accessible?

Bournemouth Beach and Brighton Beach both received a perfect accessibility score.

What has been learnt about the accessibility of beaches in the UK?

Although you may not think that beaches will be wheelchair friendly and accessible to visitors with limited mobility, the research found that the highest-rated beaches according to TripAdvisor are, in general, accessible to all.

Whilst many of the beaches that were looked at are accessible, there is still room for improvement as only two beaches out of 10 received a perfect accessibility score. One of the areas that needs most improvement is wheelchair accessible beach huts being offered to beach goers as 8/10 of the beaches don’t have these.

Click here to go back to the top

Airports

 

This study looked at the busiest airports in the UK to see if they offered the following accessible facilities: accessible entrances, accessible toilets, assistance dogs welcome, accessible parking, wheelchairs available to hire.

Key findings

  • Out of the 10 busiest airports in the UK, every single one received full marks in terms of accessibility.
  • The top 10 busiest airports in the UK all have accessible entrances, accessible toilets, accessible parking, and wheelchair hire.

What has been learnt about airport accessibility in the UK?

The research paints a very positive picture of the state of accessibility at UK airports, suggesting that those with physical disabilities and wheelchair users should find accessing these major UK airports to be a positive experience. Of course, more can always be done, and smaller airports might not always reach the same standard.

READ MORE: Britain's most accessible airports

Click here to go back to the top

Train Stations

 

In a previous study we looked at the accessibility of train stations in the UK and using this data we took the 10 busiest train stations in 2020/21 to see if they offered the following accessible facilities: Induction Loop Availability, Step-Free Access, National Key Toilets, Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter, Wheelchairs Available, Train Ramp Access, Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines, Impaired Access Staff and Accessible Telephone.

Key findings

  • None of the stations received a perfect accessibility score.
  • 3/10 train stations offered 8 out of the 9 accessibility factors the study looked at.
  • Only Birmingham New Street has an Induction Loop available.
  • Highbury & Islington train station was the least accessible, only offering 2 out of the 9 facilities.

Which of the UK’s busiest train stations are the most accessible?

London Liverpool Street, Clapham Junction and Birmingham New Street received the best accessibility scores.

What has been learnt about the accessibility of train stations in the UK?

The accessibility of train stations is important as millions of people use this mode of transport and the research found that of the 10 busiest train stations in the UK in 2020/21, the facilities they offer to travellers with mobility issues is very good.

All but one of the 10 train stations that the research looked at offer at least 6 out of the 9 accessibility facilities, although there is room for improvement for the Highbury & Islington train station which only offers 2 out of the 9 facilities that were looked at.

Click here to go back to the top

Methodology

The research looked at how accessible various attractions, hospitality venues and amenities are to people with limited mobility within the UK.

The study gave a point for the facilities that the different attractions and amenities offered and 0 points for the facilities they didn’t. For example, for the beaches section, the study looked at whether they offered five different accessibility facilities and if they offered them all, they received the maximum of 5 points and if they offered none, they received 0 points. The resources which were used as a starting point for each category can be found in the relevant sections above.

To see how the different locations scored for each accessibility factor, take a look at the raw data here.

How accessible is the UK?

The below map provides a quick overview of all the locations that were looked at as part of this study. Feel free to browse the map to discover the accessibility of the locations nearest to you.

Map image credits: Royal Lancaster London, Resident Hotels, Pan Pacific London, Fingal, Haven Hall Hotel, Haytor Hotel, Hotel 41, Lawton & Lauriston Court Hotel, The Elm Tree, Ivybank Lodge, L’Enclume, Core, Outlaw’s New Road, Ynyshir, Moor Hall, Bibendum, Restaurant Gordon Ramsey, Restaurant Sat Bains, Pollen Street Social

The findings of this study into different areas of UK life have revealed that the UK is very accessible but there is still room for improvement to make all parts of society more accessible to those with limited mobility.

Despite being natural attractions, the UK’s national parks and the top 10-rated beaches are accessible and offered many of the facilities for visitors with a mobility issue. The busiest airports, paid attractions and free attractions in the UK were also very accessible and offered many of the accessible facilities that the research looked at. In fact, all the 10 airports that were looked at as part of the research offer all of the accessible facilities.

The area perhaps of the most concern when it comes to people with limited mobility were hotels and restaurants with no restaurants scoring a perfect accessibility score and only one hotel offering all the facilities that were looked at as part of the research.

As a society, it’s our duty to make all areas of the UK not only accessible to all but welcoming environments where those with disabilities and limited mobility feel welcome. From discounted tickets and disabled parking to ramps and stair lifts for the elderly, there are many ways that progress can be made.

If you or a loved one needs walk in baths, showers or wants to take a look at the different stairlifts available, you can contact Age Co Mobility on 0800 1170 857 for free advice.

For more studies and data-led research, as well as tips and guides, make sure to visit our news page

Click here to go back to the top

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.