All the UK’s major cities have made improvements in terms of their accessibility credentials in recent years, allowing people living with all kinds of disabilities to enjoy a wide range of entertainment and leisure activities with greater ease and in complete comfort.
Birmingham, the country’s ‘second city’ (depending on who you ask!), is now arguably one of Britain’s most disability-friendly places. Whatever your level of mobility – whether you are a user of our rise and recline chairs who struggles with standing for long periods or if you require a wheelchair at all times when out and about – you can rest assured that a trip to Birmingham can include plenty of outings that are fun, educational and fully accessible.
In 2016, the American acoustics expert Leo Beranek named Birmingham’s Symphony Hall as the best place in the UK to hear live music – and the seventh best in the whole world. This should be an indication of how memorable attending a show at this magnificent city centre venue will be, whether you’re going there to see a classical, pop, folk, jazz or blues act, or even a comedy or spoken word event.
Fortunately, patrons with both mobility and sensory disabilities are adequately catered for at Symphony Hall, ensuring that its world-class performances can be enjoyed by just about everyone. There is a real sense that accessibility is front and centre of considerations at the hall, and this is demonstrated by features such as a dedicated phone line for disabled bookings (where individual requirements can be discussed) and a special Google Street View project carried out in collaboration with Autism West Midlands that allows future visitors to take a virtual tour of the entire building.
For full information on Symphony Hall’s accessibility facilities, click here.
Winterbourne House and Garden
An oasis of tranquillity in a busy and vibrant city, Winterbourne House and Garden in Edgbaston is over 100 years old yet can still offer a hugely rewarding experience to anyone with limited mobility.
Thanks to a platform lift, getting to the first floor of this charming house – one of the finest surviving Arts and Crafts-inspired villa garden properties of the Edwardian era – is straightforward, with only the narrowness of some upstairs rooms causing potential difficulties for visitors with particularly large wheelchairs.
Found in the grounds of the house, the extensive Winterbourne Botanic Garden is, whilst not fully accessible, largely suitable for wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Here, horticulture enthusiasts can see rare and interesting plants and flowers from China, the Americas and elsewhere, as well as an unusual lean-to glasshouse, a sunken rock garden and more.
If you do not yet own your own mobility scooter, one can be hired at the house for the day, and there is also a wheelchair available; please note, however, that these aids are first-come, first-served only.
Additional information about Winterbourne’s accessibility can be read here, where a detailed access statement can also be viewed and downloaded.
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
If you’re looking for an educational day out during your trip to Birmingham, be sure to include a visit to the city’s Museum and Art Gallery. A popular local attraction for over 100 years, BM&AG prides itself on being fully accessible, with step-free entry available via the Gas Hall Entrance on Edmund Street.
Blue Badge parking spaces, accessible toilets on every floor, strategically placed seating in the exhibition areas and allowing visitors to bring assistance dogs with them are just a few of the disability-friendly features that have been introduced here in recent years, meaning that everyone can enjoy the museum and gallery’s highlights.
These highlights are many and varied, but some of the truly unmissable include the ‘Staffordshire Hoard’ (the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon metalwork ever found), a collection of Pre-Raphaelite art that is widely considered to be the finest in the world, and a selection of fascinating artefacts from the Ancient Egyptian civilisation.
More information regarding the museum and art gallery’s accessibility and a link to a detailed access statement can be found here.
National Motorcycle Museum
Home to the largest collection of British motorbikes in the world, the National Motorcycle Museum is in the village of Bickenhill – which is around a 20-minute drive from the centre of Birmingham – and is quite simply a must-see for any bike fan.
A massive fire destroyed much of the museum – including almost 400 motorbikes – in 2003 but, amazingly, hard work and passion meant that the attraction was able to reopen just 15 months later. Anyone interested in bikes will no doubt be very grateful that this was the case, as the site’s highlights include the Golden Dream Brough Superior (the world’s most valuable motorcycle) and the legendary Wilkinson TMC.
In terms of its disabled access, the National Motorcycle Museum punches well above its weight, considering it receives no public funding. The team at the museum have done much to ensure a seamless experience for all visitors with reduced mobility and other disabilities, but below are some of the most important:
- Free entry for carers
- Wheelchair and mobility scooter access to most exhibits
- Free wheelchair hire (first-come, first-served)
- Accessible toilets
- Wheelchair lift to café and restaurant on the first floor
Our guide to the best accessible attractions in ‘Brum’ finishes with another renowned performance venue – the city centre’s Birmingham Hippodrome. Although it has a slightly smaller capacity than the abovementioned Symphony Hall, this historic theatre remains among the most popular in the region and is also the busiest in the UK, regularly welcoming over 600,000 patrons every year.
Although it features a diverse calendar of events, the Hippodrome is perhaps best known for being the home of the acclaimed Birmingham Royal Ballet. This, combined with the venue’s excellent accessibility features, makes a day or evening spent here one of the most relaxing and rewarding live cultural experiences anyone with a disability can enjoy.
A few of the many accessibility initiatives that have been developed at the Birmingham Hippodrome recently include the introduction of ‘relaxed’ performances (designed to encourage people with autism, learning or sensory disabilities to attend the theatre); audio-described, captioned and sign language interpreted performances on certain dates; and low-level counter service for wheelchair users.
A full list of upcoming assisted and relaxed performances at the Hippodrome is available on this page, from which further details of the venue’s comprehensive disability-friendly facilities can also be accessed.