Days out for disabled adults and young people

Visit scenic walks accessible to wheelchairs

The UK has some beautiful countryside to enjoy, but wheelchair users can sometimes be at risk of losing out. Fortunately there are many picturesque walks which are accessible, and WalkswithWheelchairs.com have provided a handy searchable database of these.

Check out accessibility features at music festivals

If you’re a festival goer, get in touch with them beforehand to gain access to the accessible viewing area, camping, toilets etc. Many will also provide a free ticket for a carer too. 
You can find a good guide to ‘10 of the best UK festivals offering disabled access’ here, at Music Festival News.A theatre stage full of people, a ballerina is lifted in the air

Have a night out at the theatre

Many theatres have concessions tickets for disabled people, and some offer a free ticket for accompanying carers. To find out more, take a look at your local theatre’s website or give them a call. You can also find out more about special accessible shows in London’s West End, on the Official London Theatre website.

Visit a National Trust property with free entry for your companion or carer

The National Trust has a scheme whereby a disabled visitor pays the normal admission fee for the attraction or membership, and their companion or carer is admitted for free, on request. To save having to ask for free entry at a National Trust property, you can apply for an ‘Access for All Admit One Card’ in advance, which can be used with the same or a different companion each time.

Get a CEA card and catch a movie 

If you enjoy films but need help accessing your local cinema by yourself, you’ll be pleased to know that 90% of all UK cinemas accept the CEA card, which entitles a person acting as your carer to free entry into the cinema. You can register for a card and find out more about the CEA scheme.

A packed out football stadium

Go to see a football match

Many football teams offer discounted match tickets for disabled supporters, or schemes where a carer can get in on match day for free. To find out what your team offers and what disabled facilities they have available, just Google ‘disabled supporters [your team]’.

Days out with disabled children

Take a trip to the museum

Museums are now doing lots more to make themselves accessible to children and young people with autism. Here's a selection (taken from this guide):

Sensory packs at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Pre-visit information and a chill out space at Eureka, Halifax
Early bird, night owl events and visual stories at Science Museum, LondonThe skeletal head of a tyrannosaurus rex in a museumEarly opening and hands on activities at Manchester Museum.

Monthly relaxed visits at The Story Museum, Oxford
Regular events at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London

A visual story from Farnham Museum, Farnham

Go for a dip in a hydrotherapy pool

Many hydrotherapy pools in local special needs schools have out-of-hours sessions but they aren’t really publicised. These can be a great place to help your child relax and build confidence, as the water is much warmer and there are better disabled changing facilities than at regular swimming pools. To find out if there’s any near you, simply Google, “hydrotherapy pools for disabled children in [your area]”.

Ask about sessions at play centres for children with complex needs

Some soft play centres and other venues for kids have sessions for children with complex needs. It's always worth asking, so try getting in touch with your local centre and enquiring.

Preparing for a day out

Have a plan

“Plan, plan, plan! It may be obvious but you should always have your day trip planned out in advance so you are a lot less likely to have any hiccups along the way and make your trip or day out a lot more enjoyable and stress free. If you use a guide dog or therapy dog, phone ahead to ensure the animals are permitted. If you need it, book an accessible room in a hotel and ensure it has the equipment you need. 
” – Graham at Trip Ability

Get a ‘Radar key’

“Many accessible toilets are part of the National Key Scheme (NKS) which means they can only be used by people with a Radar NKS key. I highly recommend getting a Radar key to allow you quick and easy access to these toilets when needed. This will save you a lot of time and hassle as you won’t have to wait on a member of staff arriving with a key to open the door.”  – Emma Muldoon, aka Simply Emma

Check your journey route is accessible

A green and yellow train waiting at a station platform“If you’re planning on using public transport during your day out it may be necessary to plan your journey ensuring the route and bus/train station is accessible. Book any assistance you require especially if travelling by train such as assistance on/off the train. You may need to pre-book assistance up to 24 hours beforehand, particularly unmanned stations).” – Emma Muldoon, aka Simply Emma 

Ask what mobility aids and facilities are available

“If you have limited mobility you may benefit from hiring mobility aids such as a wheelchair from the place you are visiting. Enquire beforehand what their facilities are and whether there is an option to hire wheelchairs if needed.” – Emma Muldoon, aka Simply Emma

Consider anti-tip bars if you use a wheelchair

“If you’re a wheelchair user and you feel you might be heading somewhere that you’re unsure of – such as what kinds of curbs that you may run into, you may want to fit anti-tip bars so if needs be you can lift the front wheels up safely.” - Graham at Trip Ability

Relax

Relax, you’re on a day out - if anything does go wrong you may have someone along with you to help
out, if not speak up - there are plenty of people out there willing to help you if needs be at the drop of a hat. - Graham at Trip Ability

Tips for days out with children with complex needs

Plan ahead

One community member says, “I think it's important to always have little snacks and toys when you go on an outing. John loves his special Mary Poppins backpack where we keep his favourite things, which I use to comfort and calm him if it all becomes too stressful or noisy for him. I put in his Nintendo, a toy, a book, drink, snack/treat and also a Walkman so he can listen to a story or music.”

Use easily identifiable clothing

Children with complex needs can be prone to wander off, and if you’re distracted for a moment in a crowd, they can easily disappear beyond sight. Having them wear a piece of bright clothing, such as a colourful hat or jacket, can help to prevent this from happening.

Practise what to do if the child becomes lost

In the event that your child does become lost, it’s important that they know what to do, as far as can be expected. It’s a good idea to roleplay what to do if they get lost on a day out, making sure that they know where to find and how to present their identification card, and what to say.

Beautifully manicured green gardens with lots of trees, Hampton Court‘Preview’ the day out with pictures and video

If you are planning a day out and your child or the person you are caring for has difficulties with going somewhere new, try showing them pictures or a video of the place you are going to (via Google Images or the attraction’s own website). You can give them a 3D panaoramic preview using the Instant Street View website, which uses Google's Street View technology to immediately whisk them away to the place you plan to visit. This way, it won't be such a shock for them when you go for your day out. 

Jump the queue

Quite a few attractions - LegoLand for example - offer a fast track system for popular rides, aimed at children with complex needs for whom queueing can be overwhelming. It's worth checking with any attraction to see if they have an offer such as this, and you can find details of LegoLand’s offer here.

Give them a camera to slow things down

One community member describes how they solved the problem of their child walking too fast: “We went to Nyman’s Gardens recently and my son Toby walked so quickly that we couldn't enjoy the beautiful surroundings. In his head, a walk means a walk to somewhere. Halfway round we gave him our digital camera and he slowed down to take loads of photos. We will now always take a spare camera with us!”

Money-saving tips for days out

Proof of disability for concession tickets

While some venues that offer concession tickets will accept your word as proof of your disability, some require you to present documentary evidence. It’s best to check the venue’s website or phone ahead to see what's their policy. One community member suggests, “If you need to prove you're eligible for concessions take a picture of your blue badge on your phone and show people that,” but some venues may not access this. Things like benefits letters, or any official form that states your impairment can also work well.

A poundsign, spelled out with pound coinsKeep an eye out for discounted days out

Do your research and you’ll find many days out for disabled people are available with some kind of discount. The Disability Grants website, for example, has a page detailing some discounted days out for disabled people.

Get a Max Card

A Max Card is a discount card that enables the families of disabled children to save money on many popular attractions and days out, such as Madame Tussauds, the Harry Potter Studio Tour, Jorvik Viking Centre and many more.To get your card, you need to contact your participating local authority or charity, and you can view the substantial list of UK-wide attractions covered here.  

Get a Disabled Person's Railcard

If you receive PIP, certain rates of DLA, several other qualifying benefits, or you have a visual or hearing impairment, you can apply for a Disabled Persons Railcard. This will give you 1/3 off most train fares for you and a friend, and will also qualify you for a wide range of 2 for 1 offers on attractions around the country.

Just ask

Most attractions offer disabled discounts, special access, carers-go-free solutions, but carers often don’t ask for it. Please do ask whenever you are visiting any facility as it can save you a small fortune.

Online resources for finding accessible days out

Euan's guide website

“Planning days out can be difficult. Websites such as Euan’s Guide are very helpful with lots of reviews on accessible places to go and things to do. This provides a host of ideas, making it a great starting point for planning an accessible day out. This will also give a clear idea of what’s not accessible.” – Emma Muldoon, aka Simply Emma

Ask on online disability forums

“Before you go somewhere, try researching online by visiting disabled forums (such as Scope’s community) and websites, asking if users have been to the location or venue you are heading to, this will let you know their experience and what you can expect.” – Graham at TripAbility

Stay up late

The charity Stay up late was founded by the members of punk band Heavy Load, who were themselves a mix of disabled residents and staff at a Southdown Housing Association group house. They do a lot of campaigning for disabled people to be able to stay up late, by way of organising carers’ rotas differently, and their website also has listings for concerts, discos and other lively events in London and the southeast for people with and without learning impairments. 

Accessible countryside

Accessible Countryside for Everyone is a website that highlights accessibility to the countryside and green spaces, for leisure, recreation and sport. It lists wheelchair walks, buggy walks, easy walks, support organisations, disability sport information, campsites with disabled facilities and more. 

Autism friendly days out - National Autistic Society

The National Autistic Society has a list of autism-friendly days out, which have been recommended by families. Many of the attractions listed offer concessions for people with special needs and/or their carers.

National parks

The government’s official national parks website has an accessibility guide, and details of accessible attractions and facilities in all of the parks.
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