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An accessible visit to London’s British Museum and the Coral Room

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By Alicia Loh @ExploreDisabled

When I first visited London, I was under the misapprehension that the big, modern city would be fairly wheelchair accessible. That impression hasn’t quite held up now that I live here, but London remains a fantastic place for wheelchair users. There are many places I enjoy, and two go particularly well together.

First up is the British Museum in Bloomsbury, smack in the centre of the city. The nearest accessible tube station is Tottenham Court Road, and buses abound nearby. Most London museums have good access, but The British Museum is one of the most accessible places I’ve been to. It has the benefit of being incredibly spacious, making for easy navigation. Disabled parking is available and companion tickets are free for their exhibits. If you’re visiting for the first time, though, the free exhibits are more than enough.

I went to the British Museum on the last weekend of the exhibit, Peru: a journey in time, and it was quite crowded. I was happy to meander and take my time, so it was fine, but I would recommend going on a quieter day as it does get pretty tight. The exhibit itself was very well-curated, taking us through thousands of years of history around the Andes. There were beautiful, vibrant artefacts with thoughtful, detailed descriptions that didn’t shy away from the uncomfortable.

I do have mixed feelings about the British Museum since a good chunk of its collection consists of stolen artefacts, but as an accessible activity, it’s a great choice. You can do a single exhibit in about an hour and a half, or spend the whole day exploring the galleries.

Just down the road is The Coral Room, in The Bloomsbury Hotel, where I went for afternoon tea. I had originally wanted to go to Sketch’s Gallery, which is completely pink and features a caviar man who wanders the room until he deems you worthy of a decadent dollop, but it was sadly inaccessible because of its stairs. The accessible entrance to The Coral Room is round the back and though it works, you need to flag down a staff member inside the hotel and up a flight of stairs! My friend did this for me. The back entrance has trash bins, which were cleared away when I entered, but were left completely blocking the way when I exited. The through-floor lift was small but fit my power wheelchair and companion comfortably.

The tea itself was lovely, with sandwiches, scones and little desserts—the first two are refillable! Even though we were there on a fairly busy Saturday, we never felt rushed and stayed for a few relaxing hours.

There is always something exciting to do in London and lots of ways to have fun as a wheelchair user.

Alicia is a 20-something power wheelchair user who can be found at Explore Disabled Instagram | Facebook

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