Limping Though London

Limping Through London
by Meli, ArthritisInsight Community Member

London is a great city, a lot to do, a lot to see, and more tourist junk than I’ve seen in a long time. London is also exhausting. The key, as with most things in life with arthritis, is just to pace yourself.

First the basics. While we in the US have had the ADA around for ten years, the disability access laws in the UK are newer. This translates to access being a challenging issue. Access can be a question of the age of the building, its popularity as a tourist attraction, and finding someone that knows where the elevators (well, they call them �lifts�) are located. I found the people of London to be very helpful and if you’re polite in asking, most are more than willing to lend a hand when you need it.

Transportation in London can be a challenge. Buses are good, but slow, and traffic can be hell. However, taking one of the double-decker bus tours is a great gimp activity. You sit, you ride, you snap pictures. If you do it on your first day there, you can scout out places you want to go back to later. The tube is a really efficient way to get around, but for those with problems walking, it’s a challenge. Keep in mind that some of the lines are over 100 years old, and that getting around in the station often involves a lot of walking and a lot of steps. Most stations have escalators, a few have elevators (but a warning: elevators are often broken, and usually require a member of the tube staff to operate them) but nevertheless, you will encounter lots of stairs. Taxis can get a bit pricey, but there are times that they are definitely worth it. As for renting a car, good luck finding a place to park it.

Accommodations vary quite a bit. A good plan is to get your map and your travel books ahead of time and decide where the bulk of the sights you want to see are located. Then try to pick a hotel in that general area. Even though it may cost a little more, it saves on hassle. There’s nothing worse than spending a day seeing the sights, having a great time, wearing yourself out, and then debating how you’ll find the energy to get back to the hotel.

A great book is �Access in London� and it is available at It’s a few years old now, but details most of the major tourist spots in terms of wheelchair access, stair counts, accessible restrooms, elevator locations, and building entrances with flat access. It’s a great supplement to whatever tour guide you’re using.

My biggest piece of advice for visiting London? GOOD, COMFORTABLE WALKING SHOES. They are worth their weight in gold. Unless you’re a chair user, you will do a lot of walking, and you want your shoes to be comfortable, broken in, and ready to go. If possible, start a regular walking program a month or two before you go, that way you’re not contending with as many screaming muscles at the end of the day when your joints are grumbling loudly as well. So, pack light, get out those comfy shoes, and don’t forget to bring home those tacky tourist t-shirts!

And from Granny Jan:

For those of you planning to visit London, please ask at the tube station for the Access to the Underground guide.

It may be a bit big to hold, because of the large print, but it will tell you the access to the booking office from the road, and from the booking office to the trains.  It even tells you how many steps there are in each fight of stairs.

You can also ask the staff to stop the escalators for you to walk on and off easily – but not in the rush hour.

London also has river buses which you can use your travel cards on.  Several of the piers are level access.

If you come to London, please feel free to contact me .