Today, 16 March, is Disabled Access Day. Disabled Access Day was founded in 2015 to celebrate and raise awareness of accessible activities and venues in the UK, and in so doing making it easier for disabled people to explore places and have new experiences. Glen Turner, member of London Vision East, moved to London a few years ago and has noticed the increasing accessibility of the capital.
Arriving in London
I first moved to London a couple of years ago, and even in that short period of time I have been able to see how increasingly accessible the city has become. I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to do a lot more than I’d expected.
At museums, for instance, I used to find it hard to read information and see the detail in artworks and objects. But now, many museums have large print books, and some have recorded audio guides, which are all very useful.
Best of all though, many museums offer audio described tours and tactile workshops for people with vision impairments. London Vision also arrange museum tours. These events really bring the exhibits to life, enabling me to appreciate their details and understand the stories behind them, far more than I could do myself.
Recently, I’ve attended wonderful tours at Tate Modern, The National Gallery and The Fan Museum; other favourites include The British Museum, Buckingham Palace and the Natural History Museum. I recommend contacting museums and reading their access pages, as well as checking the VocalEyes and London Vision websites, to see what opportunities are on offer.
I’ve had similar experiences at theatres. Like at museums, I found it hard to see what was going on, so I rarely went. But now I go frequently, because many productions have audio described performances. These performances often also include touch tours, where you get to explore the stage, props and costumes, and sometimes even meet the actors, which is really exciting!
Audio description and touch tours enable me to immerse myself in the shows and enjoy them fully. . I’ve enjoyed a wide variety of productions this way, including Matilda, Wicked, Harry Potter & The Cursed Child, Much Ado About Nothing, A Christmas Carol and A Monster Calls.
Audio described shows are listed by VocalEyes and Official London Theatre, as well as the venues themselves, and many theatres have discounted access rates. It’s always worth calling the box office to enquire about upcoming shows, the best prices and any assistance you need. I have also noticed that many more cinemas are offering audio description and access rates.
Eating out and shopping
I really enjoy dining out in the city. I have found restaurant staff to be very helpful, plus it’s easy to research and book restaurants online. Likewise, staff in shops are happy to assist when I need it.
Getting around the city has been easy thanks to my Freedom Pass, audio train and bus announcements, staff assistance on the Tube, and smartphone apps like Citymapper and Google Maps, which help me plan journeys and routes.
Becoming a Londoner
All of this has helped me to become very independent and confident in London, and I still find that I’m discovering new things about the city all the time. Although I have been surprised by the accessibility options, there are still improvements to be made for blind and partially sighted, and other disabled people, I hope that accessibility continues to be seen as a priority, so that everybody can enjoy what London has to offer.
By Glen Turner