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Accessible leisure activities

Man and child in a kayak

Being active can be difficult for someone who's frail, ill or disabled. But keeping active may improve their ability to do daily tasks, help them to relax, control their weight and encourage them to make new friends.

Although it can be hard for someone who is ill or disabled to keep active, there are many different options that they could consider.

Carer's tip from Netbuddy

"Most places offer queue jumping to people with special needs. If they don’t, I always just go to the front of the queue and ask nicely. No-one ever minds when I do."

Visit Netbuddy to read more carers' tips like this

Accessible leisure activities and sightseeing

Finding places to visit that have all the facilities that you need might be easier than you think.

English Heritage manages most of the historic castles and monuments in England. You can search for attractions on its website by area and type, and find out what special facilities each location has.

The National Trust has many properties and protected land throughout England and Wales. Most of the sites have good access and facilities for disabled people. Wherever possible, the Trust admits powered wheelchairs and similar small vehicles into its buildings, and frequently provides manual wheelchairs. Self-drive and volunteer-driven powered vehicles are available at some larger gardens and parks.

VisitEngland is the website of the official tourist board for England. You can use it to find attractions, shows and events, day trips, accommodation and destinations across the UK that cater for disabled people.

Getting around with accessible transport 

If you are travelling by public transport, then make sure you know the times of the bus or train that you are hoping to catch. It may be better if you can plan your journey to avoid rush hour. You should also allow enough time either side of your journey for delays and a rest break if necessary. You can check public transport details using the Transport Direct website, which can also help you plan car journeys.

If you are travelling with other family members or friends, make sure that there is something on the trip for them to do. Time away from the caring environment may be a rare opportunity, so ensure that you can all enjoy it.

Disabled people can obtain Railcards for use on all trains across the National Rail network. Disabled people travelling in their own wheelchair who don't hold a Railcard can get discounts on fares for themselves and one travelling companion.

People who are registered blind or partially sighted can get the same discounts, but only if they travel with a companion. See the Railcard website for more details.

If you hold a Blue Badge, the Rough Guide to Accessible Britain is free to order. The guide is produced in association with Motability and has listings of days out in Britain for the disabled visitor.

You might also find it useful to check the Changing Places website before you travel to find your nearest disabled toilets with adult changing facilities.

For more information see the Travelling abroad page, which has information about air, sea and rail travel with a person with a disability.

Active pursuits for ill or disabled people

Outdoor sports can be thrilling for anyone. As awareness of disabilities increases and technology advances, more activities are becoming available for disabled people, with the help of willing volunteers. These include:

  • Fishing. Fishing is a popular sport among disabled people as it provides a great opportunity to be outdoors in a healthy environment. The British Disabled Angling Association says that fishing is a social activity that offers a sense of achievement and possible health benefits.
  • Horse riding. Horse riding benefits the rider both physically and mentally. It improves balance, posture and co-ordination, and leads to more supple and relaxed muscles. Contact the Riding for the Disabled Association for more details.
  • Cycling. The benefits of cycling are the same for disabled people as they are for the able-bodied. It promotes independent mobility, and improves physical and mental wellbeing. If the person you're looking after has a visual impairment, you can hire or buy a tandem bike.

Day centres

Day centres help older people to get out and about if they don’t have the facilities to do so, or if they live on their own and feel isolated. They offer the chance to learn new skills and participate in activities such as bingo, tea dances, and arts and crafts.

Different centres cater for different groups of people, for example, those with learning disabilities, physical disabilities or mental health problems. Contact your local authority or local carers’ centre to find out about day centres and accessible events in your area.

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Page last reviewed: 19/08/2013

Next review due: 19/08/2015

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Read about how you and the person you care for can get help with finding accessible ways to get around

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