Manchester is an exciting city with a a flourishing arts scene, great nightlife and some of the best museums in the north. It’s also well known as a shopping destination. The good news for disabled visitors is that good council planning makes most of these facilities fully accessible, and you certainly won’t find yourself short of things to do when you take a holiday there.
Getting Around in Manchester
Manchester is a great city for wheelchair users and people with walking difficulties because it’s largely flat and has wide pavements. It’s also dotted with small cafés ideal for taking breaks, and there are gardens and public squares where you can rest in the centre.
Buses in Manchester are gradually improving disabled access, with ramps, grab rails and non-slip floors on many vehicles. There’s a timetable on every bus stop that shows when fully accessible vehicles are due, or you can call 0871 200 2233 for advice. Good driver training enhances the safety of non-adapted buses.
Manchester also has a tram system which is especially useful for longer journeys across the city. Trams are wheelchair accessible and have support rails, but can be very crowded at peak times. If you need to use taxis, you’ll find that they’re reasonably priced and run all night. Wheelchair accessible taxis are available and station and hotel staff can help you to book them.
Places to Stay
Manchester offers a great variety of accommodation and it’s really easy to find hotels with good disabled facilities, even if you’re also looking out for cheap deals. You will still need to ask before you book as some older hotels still have a lot of steps and no lifts, but there are other elegant traditional hotels that have been fully converted. If you prefer something familiar that has served you well before, all the big chains are represented.
The most popular shopping venue in Manchester is the Arndale Centre, so you’ll be pleased to know that it offers a full support service for disabled visitors, including wheelchairs and mobility scooters you can borrow to travel around it. Call 0161 839 4060 for advice – it’s best to provide a bit of notice in case there are a lot of other people wanting to use the service on the same day.
Other shops in Manchester are more variable. You’ll have no difficulty getting into and around the bigger stores but some of the marketplaces can present problems. The good news is that stallholders are generally happy to assist if you can get their attention.
Things to See and Do
Manchester’s big museums and art galleries almost all provide full access for people with mobility difficulties, and there are lots of fascinating things to see there. Audio guides and handling trails are available in some venues to help visually impaired people explore the exhibits. Staff are trained to understand access issues and assist where necessary.
Football fans visiting Manchester may relish the chance to see a game at Old Trafford, but unfortunately disability access there is not ideal. There is a special lounge for wheelchair users but this tends to be crowded and it can be difficult for a wheelchair user and ambulant friends to see the game together. People with walking difficulties who do not use wheelchairs may find it difficult to get seats. Booking well in advance is advisable.
Although some are up narrow staircases and in old buildings that can make access difficult, quite a few of Manchester’s popular pubs, clubs and live music venues offer full disabled access. These include the Apollo and the Manchester Evening News Arena, where you can see big name bands, as well as Oldham Street favourites like The Castle, which showcases the best local talent.
Clubbers will be pleased to hear that Manchester’s most popular indie venue, 5th Avenue, provides good access, as does Joshua Brooks, mixing club nights and bands. If you’re visiting for the gay scene, Cruz 101 is your best bet – there are a few steps up to the door (it’s in a listed building) but once you get past those access is very good and the staff are helpful. Bar Vegas makes a good early evening location, with cabaret acts that appeal to a mixed audience, and is fully accessible.
Music has always been a big part of Manchester’s appeal and having a disability need not exclude you from the fun. Whatever you go for, you’ll find that this is a city with a positive attitude to access where things are improving all the time.