Before I start, I feel it is important to introduce myself. I’m Amy, I’ve just finished my final year studying Archaeology and Heritage here at York and I’ll soon be starting my Masters in Cultural Heritage Management. I‘m disabled, I have a genetic condition called hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I’d like to make it clear from the beginning that I do not use a wheelchair. I often use a walking stick but I have never used a wheelchair. As a member of the disabled community, I felt it was important for this information on wheelchair accessible places in York to be available.
I’ve done my best to represent wheelchair users in this blog post by visiting places myself, speaking to the owners of the venues and asking wheelchair users about their experiences. There is no way that I could ever think of everything that a wheelchair user may have to consider, but I have done my best to make this blog post as thorough as possible. I apologise if anything is missed out or incorrect.
Travelling into town
The first thing to consider is how you will get to each location. If you’re a student without access to a car, there are three main ways to travel from campus into town.
The number 66 bus runs from campus to the centre of town several times an hour. There are three bus stops on the main campus but the most central one is outside the library. This has a dropped curve on both sides of the road alongside a pedestrian crossing. All of the buses in York are wheelchair accessible and there are spaces for wheelchair users inside the bus. I would suggest avoiding times, such as on a Saturday night, when there are many students getting the bus. However, in my experience, the bus is usually relatively quiet so you shouldn’t have to worry about someone else being in the wheelchair spot. Some disabled people may be able to use the bus for free. You can find out more about this service on the First website.
It is possible to walk from campus to the town centre but, I would note that York is famous for its cobblestone streets. While they are beautiful, they may not be the best for a wheelchair! If you wish to walk from campus to the centre of town, I suggest this route:
This will take you to the York Castle Museum. It’s a little longer than the normal route but I can guarantee there is a path the whole length of the journey.
Uber does operate in York so you can use them if you are the most comfortable with this option. They can sometimes take a bit longer here. In my experience, the fastest taxi option is Streamline Taxis. They work just like Uber through an app or, you can call them and book a wheelchair accessible taxi. They also have an offer for students where, if you find yourself stranded, you can leave them your student ID and return to their offices the next day to exchange your ID for payment.
Things to do
So, you’ve made it to the town centre and you want to do something to fill some time. I would personally recommend visiting a museum!
Probably the most famous museum in York is Jorvik. It’s an amazing Viking museum that takes you to the level of the famous Coppergate Excavation and shows you a fantastic recreation of Viking York. It may look daunting from the outside but it‘s completely wheelchair accessible. There’s a lift down to the level of the excavation and wheelchair adapted ride cars. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the museum they can only accommodate one wheelchair user at a time so it is imperative that you ring reservations to book a ticket before you arrive. Read more about the accessibility of Jorvik.
The sister museum to Jorvik is Dig. I can personally attest to the accessibility of Dig. It is aimed at younger children and is a museum dedicated to the archaeology that has revealed York’s amazing history. I would suggest booking onto the last tour of the day as this is the ‘adult’ tour aimed at an older audience. The whole museum is fully wheelchair accessible and can accommodate as many guests in wheelchairs as is necessary. Read more about the accessibility or Dig.
York Art Gallery
If you’re not the museum type then you can visit York Art Gallery. The gallery is over two floors and requires a ramp to enter but it has full lift access. It makes a wonderful day out as it is just next door to the beautiful museum gardens (where you can also visit the accessible Yorkshire Museum) and has a cafe next to a beautiful fountain. Read more about accessibility at York Art Gallery.
Places to eat
While you’re in York you’re probably going to want something to eat.
The Lunar Cafe
I can personally recommend the Portal Book Shop and Lunar Cafe. The Lunar Cafe is a brand-new cafe which opened in York after some successful crowd funding. It is LGBT+ themed and even has a hairdresser that specialises in cutting the hair of transgender and non-binary people. It is a wonderful cafe run by wonderful people. In terms of accessibility, it is upstairs. However, you can still enjoy the cafe as it has a table downstairs. This has its own advantages as downstairs also happens to be the Portal Book Shop.
The Portal Book Shop
The Portal Book Shop is one of the only book shops specialising in LGBT+ literature in the whole country. People who are not members of the LGBT+ community are completely welcome and both the cafe and the book shop are warm and friendly places to visit. The book shop is up a step but the owner has a ramp you can use. You also get to enjoy the cafe and the bookshop in one stop!
Bedern Hall is also a wonderful place to get some food. Set just off Goodramgate it is a little bit of a hidden gem in York. You can visit the hall itself, but the cafe is set in the courtyard to the front. It’s a wonderful place to get some homemade cake and take in a little history while you’re at it.
Betty’s tea room is one of the most famous places to eat in York and you shouldn’t miss out. Although the entrance is accessible there are a few things I think should be noted. It is often very busy and you will have to queue outside. If this isn’t an option for you, I would suggest booking afternoon tea and making a reservation in advance.
The cafe is step-free however, it is often very crowded. If the tea room is empty, a wheelchair could fit between the seats but, I personally doubt it would be accessible when it’s busy. I would suggest calling before a visit to see how busy they are, as this is the major factor in how accessible this venue is. You can find out how to contact Betty’s here. I would like to note that here it says that the lift is currently out of order, please don’t let that alarm you! There are also many seats on the ground floor level so this shouldn’t stop your visit.
I hope some of this information was helpful in you planning a day out in York. Although the streets themselves may not be the most accessible, many places in York go to great lengths to make sure that anyone in a wheelchair is welcome.
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