With a rich industrial heritage, a history of producing supremely talented musicians and artists, and a skyline filled with impressive and varied architecture, the city of Manchester is surely one of the proudest and most culturally diverse places in the UK, if not Europe.
Today, Manchester can also claim to be among the country’s most welcoming destinations for users of both road-legal and smaller folding mobility scooters, as well as anyone else living with limited mobility or another disability. Below, you will find detailed information about some of the city’s top accessible attractions, and why you should take the time to visit at least a couple during your next trip.
We start with the first of two art galleries to make our shortlist of attractions in this remarkably creative city. The Castlefield Gallery is relatively young, having opened in 1984, but has nevertheless become a hugely significant part of Manchester’s cultural landscape.
What separates this gallery from the crowd – as well being the first in the city to be dedicated to showcasing contemporary visual art – is its commitment to supporting the development of the area’s most promising young artists through a range of mentoring and promotional projects, and this culture of inclusivity extends to its provision of disability-friendly facilities.
There are many things Castlefield Gallery has done to make enjoying its exhibitions easier for its disabled patrons, but here are some of the most important:
- Full wheelchair accessibility, including a level entrance and a lift to all floors
- Staff on hand to help with opening any heavy doors
- Large print versions of all literature
And the best part of visiting the Castlefield Gallery? It’s completely free! If you do feel like donating towards the gallery’s upkeep, though, any contribution will be gratefully received.
People’s History Museum
The People’s History Museum, which has existed in several forms since 1975, offers a wonderfully unique way for anyone interested in the UK’s industrial and political past to spend a day. The undisputed number one venue at which to find out more about working life in Britain throughout the last 200 years, the museum is also rightly proud of its accessibility credentials.
Here are a few of the primary ways in which the People’s History Museum makes visiting its collections straightforward and stress-free, regardless of its guests’ disabilities:
- Tactile maps (which can be sent out in advance upon request) will help those with visual problems navigate their way around the building.
- Wheelchair accessible toilets and baby changing facilities are on three floors.
- There is an emphasis on providing easy-to-follow sensory experiences in the main galleries, with audio, visual and tactile elements all included, ensuring that as many people as possible can enjoy the collections.
Like the Castlefield Gallery, entrance to the People’s History Museum is free of charge, although there is a suggested donation of £5 for those who can afford it.
Whitworth Art Gallery
The second recommendation for art lovers on our list, the Whitworth Art Gallery (owned by the University of Manchester) is another example of this city’s stellar cultural heritage. Founded back in 1889, the gallery benefited from a major, £15 million redevelopment in 2015, ensuring that the site is now a suitably grand and cutting-edge setting for its magnificent collection, which includes works by masters such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon and David Hockney.
There can be no doubt that the Whitworth is now reaping the rewards of the significant investment it received; named as Museum of the Year by the Art Fund when it reopened, the gallery also won a RIBA National Award for the architecture of its new extension and welcomed 440,000 visitors in the twelve months following its revamp.
Something else that has profited from the gallery’s redevelopment is its accessibility facilities, which now rank among the best in any public venue in Manchester. Features include:
- Accessible toilets and baby changing facilities
- Complimentary stools that can be taken around the gallery
- In-depth audio descriptions of the gallery, the building and its various facilities
Like many of Manchester’s top attractions, entry to the excellent Whitworth Art Gallery is totally free.
Imperial War Museum North
There are five branches of the Imperial War Museum throughout the UK, but our next recommendation is the only one to be found in Northern England. Fortunately for locals, IWM North is one of the most interesting, unique and innovative attractions you are likely to find anywhere in the country.
With its ground-breaking architecture and extensive, emotionally-charged exhibitions which explore the human cost of modern conflicts, this museum provides a memorable and immersive experience, with even the layout of the building itself designed to provoke confusion, thereby reflecting the true nature of war.
Opening in 2002, IWM North benefits from having been built in an era where accessibility in public buildings is not just an afterthought but an integral part of the design process. Some of their main disability-friendly facilities are as follows:
- Six wheelchairs that can be borrowed free of charge (first-come, first-served)
- Sixteen designated Blue Badge parking bays
- Wheelchair accessible lifts to every floor
If you’ve read about our other recommendations, it should come as no surprise by now to learn that visiting IWM North is – you guessed it – free of charge.
To finish off with something completely different, why not include a trip to Manchester’s iconic Victoria Baths? This extraordinary building was opened to the public in 1906 but fell into disrepair and eventually closed in 1993. In recent years, however, work has been underway to restore the baths to their former glory and the entire site can now be explored via an expert-led guided tour.
For a location that has not been significantly altered since it was built in the first years of the 20th century, the Victoria Baths are surprisingly accessible. The main disability features there include:
- Ramped access to the main entrance and a level surface on the main ground floor
- Excellent views of the building’s entire, spectacular interior from the accessible ground floor
- Guided tours specially tailored to visitors who cannot access every floor
Unlike the other choices on our list, a small fee is required to secure your place on a tour of the Victoria Baths (£5, plus an optional £1 donation) but you can rest assured that your money will be going towards the worthy cause of reopening the baths as a fully restored swimming pool and Turkish baths.