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Campaigners are calling for better facilities and access for disabled visitors at visitor attractions in the UK, following the results of a recent survey conducted by disabled and carers charity, Vitalise.

The 2014 survey looked at aspects such as wheelchair accessible toilets, disabled parking spaces and concessions offered to disabled visitors and carers. There are approximately 9.4 million disabled people in the UK, of whom 1.2 million are wheelchair users, which equates to 2% of the population.

The survey found that over half of the UK’s top one hundred tourist attractions had only limited wheelchair access and provided just two accessible toilets for every hundred visitors.

The five tourist attractions voted least accessible to disabled visitors were:

  • Whipsnade Zoo
  • Stourhead
  • Sheffield Park
  • Museum of Liverpool
  • Polesden Lacey

At the other end of the spectrum were the attractions with the best facilities for disabled visitors:

  • Locomotion, National Railway Museum Shildon
  • Imperial War Museum Manchester
  • World Museum, Liverpool
  • National Railway Museum York
  • Lady Lever Art Gallery Liverpool
The Imperial War Museum Salford Manchester
The Imperial War Museum rated highly for disabled access

One of the difficulties for some tourist attractions can be that they include old buildings which may have restrictions on alterations. However it was noteworthy that three quarters of the top 20 attractions were historic buildings which had successfully incorporated facilities to make their venues more accessible for all.

Even where historic buildings create limitations, it does not excuse inadequate car parking, toilets or other facilities for disabled visitors.

One of the most frustrating scenarios for disabled visitors was being led to believe that a tourist attraction was wheelchair friendly, only to arrive there and find it was not.

This had happened to 40% of the survey respondents. 70% of people who answered the survey said that they felt such a lack of trust in accessibility information about tourist attractions that it was enough to deter them from visiting places.

Clearly tourist attractions in the UK have much room for improvement, a view held by 95% of people who responded to the Vitalise survey. According to Chris Simmonds, CEO of Vitalise, it is not just the facilities which are in need of improvement, but also the level of honesty with which facilities are described.

There is a demand for far greater transparency about how accessible visitor attractions really are, “tourist attractions need to work harder, not only to make their premises more accessible to prospective disabled visitors, but also to be much clearer in what they are saying about accessibility.”

Things may have changed for the better in recent years for disabled visitors at tourist attractions, but things will have to change a lot more before disabled visitors can get an equal experience when going for a day out.

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