10 accessible places to visit after lockdown

With the lockdown still in motion and no confirmed time when things will return to normality, many of us are staying at home dreaming of places to visit and socialise with family and friends again.

If you’re eager to plan ahead for your next adventure and want to find a suitable venues and accommodations, check out these 10 accessible places, which I’m hoping to visit after lockdown:

1. The French Horn, Alton, Hampshire

The French Horn is a local pub that is literally around the corner from where I live in Alton. It is located alongside the MidHants railway line where the Watercress steam train goes by and overlooks The Butts green. It serves pub food and a variety of alcoholic beverages at the bar.

In terms of accessibility, the pub has an accessible door at the rear end of the building. You can dine at the rear end of the restaurant but minimal access to the bar. The garden is level access throughout with standard wooden picnic benches.

I particularly enjoy visiting this pub at summertime, sitting in the garden with a nice cold drink and occasionally listen to some live music that the pub hosts.

2. The Red Lion (Table Table), Horndean, Hampshire

This is another traditional British pub based near my parents’ home in the village of Horndean, eight miles north of Portsmouth. We’ve met up there for family meals on special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas.

It has good level access to tables and you can book a table in advance, meaning you can get the best suitable table for your needs.

3. Festival Place Shopping Centre, Basingstoke

 Festival Place Shopping Centre is in the town of Basingstoke, 13 miles from Alton. I regularly go here for some retail therapy and a nice meal or cake. The venue has a wide choice of cafes and restaurants including Nando’s, Giraffe, Pizza Hut, Costa Coffee plus many more.

The centre has level access throughout and lifts to the different floors and multi-story car park. To find out more about the accessibility facilities, check out my Festival Place video review.

4. Gunwharf Quays Shopping Centre, Portsmouth

Gunwharf Quays is an outlet shopping centre in Portsmouth City Centre. I’ve visited here on hundreds of occasions since I was a child. It has a variety of designer stores including SuperDry, Ted Baker, Addidas, Timberland, Weird Fish and GAP, to name a few. Plus, this tourist attraction is the home to the famous Spinnaker Tower.

The venue also has numerous cafes and restaurants including Café Nero, Costa Coffee, Burger King, Slug & Lettuce, Pizza Express, Frankie & Bennies plus countless more.

The centre is level access throughout, has lifts to the different floors and underground carpark and has a Changing Places toilet.

You can see me admiring the shopping centre and coastline views in my Gunwharf Quays accessibility video.

5. Harbourside, Bristol

Harbourside is located in the south-west city of Bristol. I usually go there a few times a year to visit my friends Steph and Paul.

There are many food outlets and bars available along the harbourside including Prezzo, Za Za Bazaar, Loose Cannon Bar and many more, all of which are in walking distance from my friends’ flat and level access throughout.

6. Premiere Inn, Wellingborough

 I also like to visit Steph and Paul when they stay at Steph’s Mum’s house in Wellingborough, Northampton. Sometimes I like staying over the weekend but to do this, I stay in a hotel nearby.

The Premiere Inn, Wellingborough is ideal accommodation for a weekend away, visiting friends. It has easy access to the building, lifts to the numerous floors and a few accessible rooms.

My only disappointment is the accessible rooms are quite tight for my wheelchair and equipment, but it is doable for one night.

7. Holiday Inn, Cardiff City Centre

My best friend Pluggy lives in Cardiff and I was initially supposed to visit her in mid-April (of course that’s no longer happening). At the moment we’ve re-scheduled for the end of September but depending on how the social distancing measures are by then, we may not see each other until next year. However, we know we will meet again one day.

When I travel to Cardiff, I stay in a hotel near where Pluggy lives. The Holiday Inn is in the city centre of Cardiff and includes an accessible room with a ceiling hoist.

The downside is the lift that takes me to the room is ridiculously small for my wheelchair. My PA had to take all the bags off me, adjust my wheelchair to get in the lift straight, press the button for me and meet me upstairs – all while other guests were queuing for the lift.

But as I said before, it does the job for one night and I’ll sleep anywhere as long as I get to spend quality time with the bestie!

8. Holiday Inn, Birmingham Airport

In March, I was supposed to attend Europe’s largest disability exhibition Naidex at the NEC Arena in Birmingham with my team at Disability Horizons. At the moment this has been postponed until November 2020.

Again, this involves staying in a hotel. Last year we stayed at the Holiday Inn, Birmingham Airport, which is near the NEC Arena. The hotel has several accessible rooms, which is perfect as there are four of us who require accessible rooms. Unfortunately, there are no hoists available but luckily, we can bring our portable hoists.

9. Premiere Inn, London Archway

 This is by far the best accessible hotel I’ve ever stayed in. I spent two nights at the Premiere Inn, London Archway when I went to see a show at the West End with my parents in 2017.This hotel has nine accessible rooms with ceiling hoists plus additional standard accessible rooms too.

The accessible room I stayed in was incredible, even exceeding my expectations. The room was large enough for my wheelchair to move around freely, and there was a space to park and charge my chair at night.

The ceiling hoist is a X-Y hoist, so it can go in any direction in the room or bathroom. In addition, the room has low-level light switches, which wheelchair users can access independently.

The only criticism I would make was that the disabled rooms were on the fifth floor, meaning we had to use the lifts, which are used by both guests and staff.

When I next stay the night in London, I’m definitely booking an accessible roo at this hotel.

10. Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Back in January for the first time, I went to the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton to see We Will Rock You. I’m hopefully still scheduled to go again in September to see The Lion King Musical.

I was rather impressed with its accessibility; accessible entrance with electric doors, Changing Places toilet, staff support with refreshments and accessible seating.

As I only live 45 minutes away from Southampton, I don’t particularly need to go for a meal or stay in a hotel. But if you did require those things during your trip to the theatre, the venue is situated in the centre of Southampton. So there are many pubs, restaurants and hotels nearby.

Access Rating – Join the Access Revolution

As a disabled person planning a day out or a trip away, it is important to find out the quality of accessibility in public places.

Access RatingAccess Rating is an app that was launched in February 2020. It has been created by disabled people, for disabled people. It allows you to read and upload accessibility reviews for 100,000 pubs, restaurants and hotels across the UK. You can rate a venue’s accessibility out of five and then include a written review. Also, if it doesn’t contain a particular venue, the app also has the capability for you to create a listing. This means the more people that use it, the better the resource will become.

The app was designed by disability entrepreneur Mark Esho who is also CEO of two successful technology companies. For his latest project, he and his partners are trying to tackle the problem of obtaining accurate information regarding access to public spaces (particularly hotels, restaurants and bars). He wants this information to be from the perspective of disabled people and therefore reflecting the aspects most important to them.

Therefore, if you want to start planning your next night out, family meal or weekend away, or give your thoughts on your favourite venues, download the Access Rating app on the AppStore or Google Play.

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This blog post is sponsored by Access Rating – join the access revolution!

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