The Government’s green list of destinations abroad where we could holiday continues to be short. Many of the places listed are too far away for a quick getaway or now under threat from war. Events seem to be conspiring to keep us holidaying in the UK and it may be that we feel happier staying here, rather than risking the complexities of PCR tests and the like, abroad.
By Laura McLoughlin
Accessibility is an issue wherever you choose to holiday. However, Visit England, Scotland and Wales have done much to ensure that the UK holiday is available to all. Here we look at some tips for accessible staycations, from transport to accommodation and activities.
Getting to a holiday destination in the UK might be easy enough if you have your car. However, if you rely on public transport, it can be a little more difficult.
National Express allows lightweight wheelchairs and smaller mobility scooters up to 23kg to be stored in luggage compartments. Even though this sounds perfect, you might want to call first as they do not promise to dismantle or reassemble your equipment for you.
Train companies are also excellent for organising ramps on and off trains. It is always best to contact the station ahead of the departure time to ensure they are aware of your needs.
If you choose to travel to London, all licensed black cabs are wheelchair accessible and are equipped with ramps. Therefore, if your idea of a perfect staycation is some shopping and theatre, this is the ideal way to get around.
Realistically, it’s the small details that matter. When out and about, travelling the country, access to facilities will need to be planned. It is not only an issue for disabled people but also people with health issues that mean well-maintained public toilets are essential en route. Visit Scotland promotes the National Key Scheme (Radar keys), giving disabled travellers independent access to locked public toilets. It might seem a minor point but is a welcome support for independent travel.
Knowing where you can stay with confidence is a challenge for people with accessibility issues. It is not standard for advertisers of accommodation to state the measures taken to be accessible for all. Visit England, Wales and Scotland have all assessed accommodation and provided a guide on accessibility via their websites. Therefore, you will know before you go, if you will be able to relax in the accommodation.
The National Accessible Scheme (NAS) offers details about grabrails, large-print menus, ramps, and extra-wide doors and more. Those offering accommodation often underestimate the need to plan and know before you go that the place receiving you will be suitable for your needs. A simple message on a website, especially one endorsed by a national tourist destination, gives peace of mind that a person can holiday with ease.
There are those that make additional effort to appeal to people with additional needs. For instance, a hotel in Devon, Woodford Bridge Country Club, has had a hoist fitted in the swimming pool to allow disabled people to enjoy the facilities. Certain rooms in Holiday Inn hotels in Birmingham and London are fitted with ceiling hoists, allowing access to metropolitan delights in the UK. The Ibis in Glasgow offers large print, Braille and audio options for people with visual impairments, as does Abbotsford in Melrose. In Edinburgh there are the Trinity Disabled and Adapted Apartments for hire on a self-catering basis.
There is such enthusiasm to go to see places abroad without fully recognising the heritage, beauty, and experiences available at home in the UK.
National Trust owns properties across the UK and the organisation has a forward-looking attitude to inclusivity. Accessibility to the sites is excellent and among the best of the best can be found at Stourhead in Wiltshire and Anglesey Abbey in Cambridge.
If you want to visit the beach, Great Yarmouth in Norfolk and Boscombe in Bournemouth, offer free to loan beach wheelchairs. It is hard to imagine the sense of inclusivity felt when you can get to paddle your toes in the tide along with everyone else.
For those looking to experience the world through hobbies, there is a company called Wheels for All who offer adapted cycles in Cumbria, Sheffield, and Northumberland. Taking to the National Cycle Network is a great way to see the beauty and diversity of our country. There is also Wheelyboats, that provides wheelchair friendly boats for those who love to pass the day fishing. You will find them in all corners of the UK, from Ripon in the North East, to Redruth in Cornwall.
What we learn
When you realise how much freedom there is to travel for people with accessibility needs, you realise the importance more than ever of publicising efforts to include everyone. The aquarium in Hull, for instance, offers sensory days for families with children with autism and quiet days for people who are disturbed by certain lighting and audio levels. These sorts of adaptations open the possibility of a holiday at home in the UK to everyone and can help us all feel free again.
Why worry about tests and quarantines and airport hassle and more? There is a holiday in the UK waiting for all of us and it seems we are all welcome.
Laura McLoughlin is based in Armagh, Northern Ireland. She is an experienced website editor and journalist, and currently works with Olympic Lifts.