With less than a year to the Olympics and Paralympics, London construction is well underway and many of the enhancements to the city are taking shape. We just returned from a visit to see how accessibility has been included in the overall plan, and provide some tips for those of you who may consider enjoying the Games in person.
Olympic Park, Olympic Stadium, the Aquatics, Hockey, and Basketball Centers, Velopark, and Olympic Village in East London's Stratford will be the heart of the London 2012 Games. Seventeen of the 26 Olympic sports will take place in the area. Stratford has seen a regeneration, including a brand new transit station that includes access by busses, Underground, Docklands Light Railway (DLR), and Overground trains.
A brand new Westfield Stratford Shopping Center, the largest in Europe, has over 300 stores and restaurants that cover the gamut of cuisines and price points. All of them are handicap accessible, too! You will also see upgraded curb cuts, lighting, open spaces, and benches.
The ExCel Center, an existing convention center in East London, will host many indoor competitions. It is conveniently located next to completely refurbished Direct Line Rail services straight from London.
Wembley, in the northwest of London, is the largest venue. It is dedicated to men and women's football.
Wimbleton, in the southwest of London, will host tennis.
There are several other venues, and the triathlon and marathon will be run through the streets of London.
All of the venues have been built with wheelchair accessibility in mind, and assistance will be available during the Games for all people with disabilities. Games Mobility will be on hand to assist people in getting to their seats, as well as, loan out wheelchairs and scooters. Other services include:
- Accessible shuttle services from key accessible train and bus stations.
- Extra accessible toilets for disabled spectators.
- A Changing Places (adult changing) toilet at all venues including a hoist.
- Assistance dog spending areas so that disabled spectators can bring their service animal into the venue.
- Spectator information in accessible formats.
- Audio description and commentary at all venues.
- Audio augmentation for hearing aid users at all venues.
Underground stations that will service the venues have been upgraded. Make sure you read our article on navigating the London Transit System before you go. "Blue Badge" parking areas, which require a disabled parking placard, will be available. Additional handicap accessible shuttles and busses will be on hand to assist disabled visitors get to their events. Additional transportation options will be available such as fleets of river boats, will be on hand. Expect crowds regardless of the transportation option.
The majority of the events will occur in the east in Stratford, but there are other events that will be scattered throughout London and the rest of the United Kingdom. Many hotels that are within the security zone, such as those near the Excel Center, are controlled by the Olympic Committee and are not available for booking. Other hotels that are close by will only take reservations in blocks of rooms for the entire duration of the Games. If you cannot get close to the venue, which may be the case, look at the transportation option you plan to take, and try to stay at a hotel that has the most direct access. Holiday Inn is the Official Sponsor of the Olympic Games, and as we mentioned, have really done a great job at accessibility with handicap accessible hotel rooms. There are several other hotels, too. We visited a variety throughout the city; they are excited to welcome everyone, and are ready to accommodate requests, but ask that you make them at booking. Many places are filling up already, so if you plan to go, book now!
If you need additional information on accessibility/transportation/lodging, you can go to: http://www.london2012.com/accessibility