One of the things I love about big cities like New York and Boston is how easy public transportation makes it to get around without a car, even if you can’t walk. I was thrilled to discover that London scores pretty well on accessibility, too. Every sidewalk I rolled down had curb cuts. Every bus had a ramp and wide aisle to accommodate a wheelchair. Many tube stops had step-free access and every subway car had ample space on board.
But the best part was the positive attitude of Londoners. Many places I’ve visited have a less than kindly attitude toward people with accessibility needs. They act like it’s an inconvenience to accommodate a wheelchair (yes, I’m talking about you, Honolulu) or they only have one bus with a lift (FlyAway LAX, you need to fix this). That wasn’t the case in the U.K. Everyone I encountered made me feel like it was no big deal, like they wanted life to be nearly as easy for me as it is for everyone else. It was wonderful.
That’s not to say it was perfect. Older parts of the Underground don’t always have a lift or the raised entry/exit platforms. But with a little planning, and a handy tube map, you can easily figure out the best routes to take advantage of accessible stations.
We took a day trip to Cardiff and even that flowed smoothly. I chose National Express because the prices were reasonable and all of their buses are equipped with lifts. I was able to transfer into the front seat and my chair went below with the luggage. Same with our jaunt to Paris. We rode over on the Eurostar and the entire process – from booking, to check in, to travel – was simple and headache-free. Eurostar even allows a companion to travel at a reduced rate!
After seven days in England, I was far from ready to go home. People always say Paris is the city of love, but for me, London is the city that captured my heart.
Accessibility: 4 out of 5. Buses are 100 percent accessible, the underground, about 65 percent. Sidewalks have curb cuts, most restaurants and public restrooms have a large unisex wheelchair stall, and the positive attitude of Londoners goes a long way toward making a visit to London a very positive experience.