If you’re looking for a pleasant break in an attractive university town with easy access to the surrounding countryside, Cambridge is a great choice. It’s easy to get around, with good public transport and flat, evenly surfaced streets. Public facilities for disabled people are really good and there are lots of great places to visit that take varied access needs into account. You can find good accommodation to suit all budgets and it’s only a stone’s throw from London.
Where to Stay
Cambridge is a city full of small independent hotels and guest houses, many in converted old buildings. Accessibility in these places is very varied and it’s important to be clear about your requirements when booking. If you can manage just a few steps, check that they won’t be too narrow or steep.
The good news is that there are also several large chain hotels right in the centre, with very good accessibility. Several have specially adapted rooms for disabled guests and if you’re travelling by car you’ll find suitable parking spaces nearby.
What to See
Cambridge has many beautiful historic buildings. Most obvious are those belonging to the university, most of which are converted for good interior access, though not all are open to the public (if you are a student elsewhere you can arrange full access). Anybody can visit the beautiful Corpus Christi and enjoy a stroll around its gardens.
Cambridge also has fascinating museums and galleries. Visit the Fitzwilliam Museum (with wheelchair access through the courtyard) to see classical antiquities, rare books and European art; or the Scott Polar Research Institute to learn about a famous expedition. There’s also the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences with its spectacular fossils and dinosaur skeletons. All these facilities provide good support for a people with a range of impairments.
What to Do
The famous Mumford Theatre in Cambridge provides good disability support but has a limited number of wheelchair spaces, so book well in advance. It also offers induction loops for the hard of hearing. The Corn Exchange Theatre and Cambridge Arts Theatre are also good for physical access and the former features signed and audio described performances. All three venues are well known for the quality of their work and host performances by nationally famous actors.
If you fancy something more active, there are local RDA programmes providing supported horse riding opportunities for disabled people, or you can visit the Mepal Outdoor Centre for climbing and water-based adventure activities. The city hosts a Disability Sports and Arts Festival in May each year with lots of ways to get involved.
How to Get Around
Cambridge is really good when it comes to blue badge parking spaces, with a much higher than average number for the size of its population. You’ll find them close to most major tourist attractions, the central shopping malls and the station. The flat streets make walking or travelling in a wheelchair relatively easy and the official organised walking tours are happy to accommodate disabled visitors’ needs.
Most buses within the city centre offer low level access and have one space each for a wheelchair. If you have a visual impairment you may struggle with the timetables but the drivers can usually advise. The city tour buses offer headphone commentary which can be useful for those with hearing impairments.
If you want to see Cambridge in the old-fashioned, romantic way, you’ll be pleased to know that several companies organising boat trips and punting are happy to help disabled visitors take part.
Cambridge has two main city centre shopping malls, the Grand Arcade and the Grafton Centre, both of which offer free wheelchair and scooter hire to make it easier for shoppers with mobility difficulties to get around. You’ll find most of the big high street chains represented there, along with a few specialist shops. They also have good disabled toilets and offer three hours’ free parking to blue badge holders.
If you really want to explore and get the most out of Cambridge’s smaller, more unusual shops, you can pre-book a wheelchair or scooter from the Shopmobility office at Drummer Street Bus Station, giving you the option of visiting nearby places without being confined to one building.
Road traffic in Cambridge is low outside of rush hour, so crossing streets is easier than in many places. Although it has city facilities there’s a leisurely atmosphere. Local people tend to be very polite and helpful. All this makes Cambridge a great place to get away from it all, and a place where you can forget a lot of the frustrations of day to day life.