Disabled access at National Trust properties

This story first appeared in the Information Point newsletter Our World in 2011, when Mike Abram told The Information Point about his experience visiting National Trust properties.

The National Trust was founded in 1895 by three Victorian philanthropists concerned about the impact of uncontrolled development and industrialisation. Together they set up the National Trust to act as a ‘guardian for the nation’ in the acquisition and protection of threatened coastline, countryside and buildings.

Today the National Trust work to preserve and protect the buildings, countryside and coastline of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in a number of ways, including encouraging everyone to visit and enjoy their national heritage, educating people about the importance of the environment and of preserving our heritage for future generations. They protect and open to the public over 350 historic houses, gardens and ancient monuments, as well as looking after forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, downs, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, castles, nature reserves, villages.

The National Trust are also committed to developing and promoting inclusive access solutions at their properties and welcome visitors with disabilities as Mike Abram has found to his benefit.

Mike says: ‘As my condition is progressing, I am finding it more difficult to get out and about, however learning about the National Trust access scheme has been invaluable to me. Whilst I can walk, I am slow at doing so and have to stop every few steps I take, however at 56 National Trust properties, I can hire a scooter for free to get around the grounds’.

Initially it took me a while to get the mind set between my ears right and it was an emotional decision for me as I didn’t want to admit I needed help but now I have accepted this, I believe it has given me some of my freedom back. Previously, I was tending not to go out because of the effort involved, the length of time it took me to walk anywhere and I was concerned about my safety – if I fell who would pick me up?

It was also difficult for my wife Diane and I felt I was holding her back but with the aid of a scooter, I can now visit most of the same places at properties that she can and she can now walk at a regular pace with me, as I can more than keep up with her in a scooter, meaning days out are less stressful, less tiring and I save much needed energy. Together, we have visited Berrington Hall, Croft Castle, Croome Park, Dunham Massey, Fountains Abbey (this was a very long site so having a buggy was a godsend), Hardwick Hall, Hidcote, Shugborough Estate and Speke Hall.

As Mike’s carer, Diane can also visit the properties free of charge. The National Trust admissions policy admits companions or carers, of a disabled visitor free of charge, on request, while the normal membership, or admission fee, applies to the disabled visitor.

Alternatively, to save having to ‘request’ a companions free entry, an ‘Admit One’ card can be issued. This card is made out in the name of the disabled person, not the companions, so there is not a restriction to taking the same person on each visit.

Mike says, ‘another benefit of the scheme is that I have been able to try before I buy. Properties have different vehicles for loan, so I have been able to try different sizes and type of vehicles, made by different manufacturers and I am now considering buying my own so I can get out and about even more’.

Mike is also aware of schemes at other non National Trust properties and says ‘Harlow Carr Gardens, was the first place I borrowed a buggy and the Wildfowl Trust at Slimbridge operate a scheme too. However, not all such schemes are free, at Chester Zoo for example, there is a charge of £10’.

Visit the National Trust for further information about
their disability policy and to download copies of their access guides.

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