Unfortunately Cambridge is often not the most accessible of cities, especially from the point of view of wheelchair users. There are steady improvements being made. Most of the main bus routes (including all of Stagecoach’s Citi routes see the Citi map online) are wheelchair accessible though some people have issues with individual drivers. Below is some general information for people who are new to the city or to having impairments to help acclimatise.
Unfortunately because of the limited access to many venues we’d advise that if you have access requirements and want to access a particular event or venue that you consider getting in touch in advance where possible. You shouldn’t need to and we have created a access statement generator in a bid to If places aren’t meeting accessibility standards, then you are within your rights to ask why; ask to speak to a manager, or write a letter. If you’d like some more pointers on this, or there’s a specific venue that you’d like us to campaign for better access to, then let us know.
Other sources of information
- The Disability Resource Centre has the Disability Access Guide which has a lot of information on access within the University. It is somewhat out of date at present, especially the Cambridge City Information
- Visit Cambridge has a very useful access guide to Cambridge this is obviously aimed at visitors however it does have a list of accessible toilets about half way down that page.
- There is also the Accessible Cambridge guide which is very comprehensive if again out of date at the time of writing. The DSC is taking over manageament of this site so please send corrections/updates to the Computing Officer in a clear manner including the URL of the correction.
Clubs and CUSU ents
One of the areas where there is an almost complete lack of access is to club and similar entertainment venues. Unfortunately almost all such venues have the main dance floor either upstairs or in a basement without a lift. One future project of the Disabled Student’s Campaign is to help set up CUSU entertainments that are much more widely accessible (in more ways than physical access. If you do find an accessible such venue anywhere are all central we’d massively appreciate you emailing one or both of our Socials Officer and the CUSU Ents Manager. Currently it’s not something that we have focused much of our campaigning on, if you feel we should why not bring it up at one of our open meetings or email our Disabled Students’ Officer(s).
Pubs and Cafes
- The Regal – an extremely large Weatherspoons pub in the centre of town with excellent access for wheelchair users. Things that may be less accessible include noise levels (they frequently play music in addition to a loud ambient volume) and the fact that it is a large open, airconditioned pub which could be an issue for a number of reasons. Also be warned that they routinely check IDs on the door and do so for anyone looking even slightly close to 18.
- The Arts Picture house on St. Andrew’s Street: This is at the local arts cinema and has very good access generally, for both the cinema and the bar, lifts to all points, very comfortable seating and a big bar and food area: good for meeting up, though worth avoiding on quiz nights as it gets quite loud when the bar is full. The current toilet facilities are good though getting in and out can be very hard for wheelchair users as the door is heavy and opens into a busy hallway, we also recommend avoiding Wednesday mornings where there is a babies and carers morning and the wheelchair toilet is frequently busy with nappy changes.
- Clowns on King Street: Lots of cheap Italian food (with vegetarian, gluten free and dairy free options but not generally a combination), wheelchair accessible downstairs seating if a little crowded and with a rather small level access toilet (not accessible to most wheelchair users). Upstairs (no lift) is generally fairly quiet so may be a good meeting place, if that’s desired and there is no possibility of anyone who requires step-free access attending.
- A lot of big chains have accessible cafes in town, though they generally close around 6, this includes Costa; Starbucks;Cafe Nero – whose branch by the Market opens until 7:30pm at present; Waterstone’s on Sidney Street’s Cafe; Pret andEat.
- The Mitre on Bridge Street and the Eagle on Benet Street, are smaller wheelchair accessible pubs (although the Eagle’s access is round the back).
- The Old Spring just north of the river has wheelchair access and tends to be a bit quieter than central pubs though they do not always leave room to access the toilets for wheelchair users.
- A little way out of town the independantly run Devnoshire Arms just off Mill Road have step free access and are very welcoming to disabled people and particularly good at adapting to complicated diets.
There are three main cinemas in Cambridge, in addition to numerous student run small showings, all are at least partly accessible.
- The Arts Picturehouse have made a lot of effort to be accessible and are very welcome to feedback. There is wheelchair access to all theatres, though so don’t have permanent accessible spaces so you may need to book ahead or arrive a little early so they can take out seating to provide space (easier than it sounds). There is a long, shallow ramp down to the theatres which might be problematic to some wheelchair users, there is a short, moderately steep ramp up to the right entrance to the cinema where the lift is (the cinema is above the Regal pub and accessed by doors either side of the pub, the right one having a lift up to the cinema). There seating is extremely comfortable and they organise events like weakly autism friendly screening for people on the autistic spectrum and their carers. All carer’s go free, they do not require you to meet the requirements for the CEA card to have a carer free.
- Vue in the Grafton Centre has an extensive access info with subtitled screening and Audio description and wheelchair access though the lift is small and might be difficult for those in larger wheelchairs they provide free carer tickets with aCEA card.
- Further out of town Cineworld has Audio Description on many shows and some subtitled, they have wheelchair access though some people have found they are frequently broken, they provide free carer tickets with a CEA card.
Places of interest:
And here we’ll provide some other accessible places that might be of interest.
- Sainsbury’s on Sidney Street has level access and reasonable space within the store, though things can get busy and crowded at times.
- Cambridge Central Library in the Grand Arcade is a very quiet space, and having been recently redeveloped it is fully wheelchair accessible, has accessible computers and a cafe. The library is open until at least 7 on weeknights but the cafe closes at 5 most weeknights.
- The University Library has made some great efforts as becoming accessible, with lifts throughout, a disabled readers room and more.
Getting around Cambridge:
Cambridge is pretty pedestrian and cyclist friendly although the city centre can be quite noisy and crowded particularly on Saturday daytimes. All the Stagecoach buses on the Citi bus routes (main routes in Cambridge) have a wheelchair space.
There is the fantastic Shopmobility scheme loaning scooters and wheelchairs and running 10-4 from two sites within Cambridge, see the city council’s website for more information: www.cambridge.gov.uk/ccm/content/transport-and-streets/transport-schemes/shopmobility.en.
Cambridge has a lot of one way roads and bollards so we recommend checking your route when driving. There are quite a lot of car parks in the centre and a number of pay and display bays (both with the first 3 hours free for blue badge holders) but limited parking to those without a blue badge. There is ample parking outside of the centre. Blue badges can make things a lot easier so if you drive and are eligible for a blue badge and haven’t applied you might want to do so. You should be able to get parking in your college or near your house if living out but you may need to apply for a permit/permission for this in advance.
There are free bus passes for people with disabilities so if you are eligible for a bus pass we suggest you apply for this.
Wheelchair accessible taxis are generally to be found at the various taxi ranks in Cambridge, but ordering a wheelchair accessible vehicle can be harder. Panther (01223 715 715) are the main taxi company in Cambridge but can have massive delays on accessible vehicles. Other companies may be more reliable when booking ahead but some wheelchair users need solid (rather than split ‘gutter style’) ramps, and these are more readily available through Panther. If you find a driver happy to take you, ask if they would mind giving you their driver number: this can greatly speed up the time taken to get the necessary cab.