United Kingdom: Disability and Exchange Profile
Disability resources and exchange opportunities in the United Kingdom.
Nestled at the edge of the European Union, the United Kingdom has long been an economic powerhouse with an outsized influence on world affairs. London is the country’s cultural and economic heart and has many accessible features, while historic towns and castles dot the countryside. There are more than eleven million people with disabilities living in the United Kingdom, including England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all of which are part of the UK.
Are you a person with a disability who has been to the United Kingdom on exchange? Send us your story!
On this Page:
- Disability Legislation and Accessibility
- Accessible Travel and Tourism Links
- Transportation within the UK
- Bringing or Accessing Medicine
- Bringing Service Animals
- Education and Disability Resources
- Exchange Opportunities and Funding Resources
- Other Links
In 1995, the United Kingdom passed the Disability Discrimination Act, which made it unlawful to discriminate against people with disabilities. In 2010, this law was repealed and replaced with the Equality Act, which consolidates civil rights laws on disability, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation. By law, the Equality Act requires equal access to public and private sector services, employment and education. Employers, schools and service providers are also required to make reasonable workplace accommodations for people with disabilities. The UK was among the first 82 countries to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in 2007. For more information on legislation, check the Government Equalities Office website.
While London is generally accessible, many smaller towns and rural areas in the UK are less so. Especially in historic villages, steps, cobblestones and other obstacles are common. Because of laws protecting historical areas, many old buildings and walkways have not been updated with accessibility features. Even in London, sidewalks may be narrow and uneven. UK law requires that all public service providers make “reasonable adjustments” to ensure accessibility and to accommodate people with disabilities, but some transportation, like the Tube in London, is difficult to access. However, with London leading the way and strong disability rights laws in place, the UK is more accessible than many other countries. The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs has information on the United Kingdom, including on accessibility, on Travel State Gov.
Directgov: Extensive resources for people with disability in the UK ranging from employment and education to transportation and travel.
Tourism For All: Accessible travel information for the UK.
Accessible England: Accessible travel information for England.
Walks With Wheelchairs: Accessible rural and countryside walks.
Visit London: Accessibility in London.
Inclusive London: List of accessible locations in London ranging from parks and pubs to toilets and banks.
Inclusive Britain: List of accessible locations throughout Britain.
"London itself is a very historic, old city, and they've had to make quite a bit of accessibility improvements [for the 2012 Paralympic Games]...hopefully they will stay because it makes the community more accessible for people in the years to come." - Anjali Forber-Pratt, a wheelchair racer who competed in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
As host of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, London has focused on making not just the Games but the city itself accessible to all. Buses, trams and taxis are accessible as are attractions like Buckingham Palace and the Tate Modern. Buses and trams have no cost for wheelchair users. Buses are equipped with lowering platforms, and taxis, or “black cabs,” include ramps. All piers in London are accessible, as are many of the riverboats and ferries. Those with disabilities who live in London are eligible for a Freedom Pass, which allows for free travel on the Transport for London network at any time.
Transport for London (buses) - Find information on bus accessibility in London, as well as routes and other information.
Transport for London - Find information on transport accessibility features in London.
The Tube (London Underground) - Learn more about which stations are accessible for wheelchair users and others with mobility disabilities.
Buses, ferries and trains in rural areas are generally accessible. People with disabilities are eligible for a free bus pass good anywhere in England during off-peak hours (9:30 AM-11:00 PM Monday to Friday, as well as weekends and holidays). Other parts of the United Kingdom, such as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, also offer free bus passes as well. However, the England bus pass only covers travel within England and a separate application is necessary for other regions.
Traveling by Taxi or Advance Pickup Service
Taxi-London - Book a taxi in London.
Dial-A-Ride - Assisted travel in London. Membership is required but is available for short term international visits.
Holiday Taxis - Book a taxi for travel throughout the UK. To arrange a wheelchair accessible taxi, call 01444-257-041.
Traveling by Train
National Rail - The website for UK’s National Rail includes information on disability assistance, discounted rail passes and station accessibility.
“Learning BSL [British Sign Language] was the most amazing cultural experience… I even ran into people at pubs who knew BSL! I was so excited and felt very liberated that I could communicate and have a good time simultaneously.” Sarah Beauchamp, who is Deaf, studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland.
When visiting the UK, all medicines should be carried in their prescription bottles along with a doctor’s letter. If a prescription is lost or runs out, a new prescription from a British doctor is required. Take along documentation of necessary medications to ensure that doctors can fill prescriptions. Certain controlled drugs are permitted for import in limited quantities with a prescription. See the British Embassy Washington website for more information.
Since the introduction of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) in 2000, pet dogs (including guide dogs and other assistance dogs), cats and ferrets can be brought into the UK from specified countries without having to enter them into quarantine, subject to the fulfillment of certain conditions.
Read the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) to find out what steps you need to take to bring a service animal into the UK.
Bringing a service animal into the UK involves a number of steps, so begin the process about six months before travel if possible.
Service animals must meet the same requirements as pets, but detailed information specific to importing service animals (including approved travel routes) can be found here.
Contact your airline before booking your fight to check costs, requirements, and procedures. For further information, contact the PETS helpline at firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)870 241 1710.
Read our tipsheet Guide Dogs and Service Animals While on International Exchange for more information on service animals.
The Equality Act requires that all people with disabilities have equal access to educational opportunities and that all schools must have an accessibility plan. While laws ensure accessibility, people with disabilities are only half as likely to hold a degree-level qualification as people without disabilities.
All universities and colleges in the United Kingdom are required to have a Disability Equality Scheme, which is designed to improve disability equality for students and staff. Schools also have Disability Advisors or Learning Support Coordinators that work with students with disabilities.
Disability Rights UK - Provides a comprehensive higher education guide for people with disabilities.
UK Council for International Student Affairs - Features a helpful FAQ for international students with disabilities.
Directory of Higher Education Institutions in the United Kingdom - Links to each institution provide general and disability-related information, including information on support for students with learning disabilities, counseling services, and adapted housing.
Skill - A searchable database that provides the contact info of disability coordinators at universities and colleges across the United Kingdom. Their booklet has information specifically for international students with disabilities.
Directgov - Provides general resources on education for people with disabilities in the UK.
People with disabilities who are interested in opportunities to volunteer, study, intern or participate in other international programs in the United Kingdom are encouraged to contact the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE) for further information.
Exchange Opportunities Links
In addition to the scholarships and grants listed below, the British Council has a list of scholarships for international students here.
Beinecke Scholarship: Open to college juniors interested in postgraduate study in the UK. 20 postgraduate scholarships of $34,000 each are available each year. Awardees must be a student at a qualifying nominating institution (there are over 100) and must be nominated. To be nominated, talk to the appropriate campus liaison.
Churchill Scholarship: Open to college seniors at qualifying institutions who are studying in the sciences, engineering or math. At least 14 scholarships are given annually, and include a fully-funded year of study at the University of Cambridge as well as a stipend.
Fulbright Grant: Awards may be in any academic, artistic or professional field, and range in duration from 4 to 9 months. U.S. students, scholars and professionals in all academic fields are encouraged apply.
Gates Cambridge Scholarship: The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is available to all students outside the UK and provides full scholarships for postgraduate studies at the University of Cambridge. The goal of the program is to build an international network of leaders working to improve the lives of others.
Marshall Scholarship: Each year, up to 40 Americans receive full one or two year postgraduate scholarships to study at a university in the United Kingdom. A minimum GPA of 3.7 is required.
Mitchell Scholarship: Each year, up to twelve students receive a one-year scholarship for postgraduate studies in Ireland, including Northern Ireland. The Mitchell Scholarship covers tuition, accommodations, and stipends for living expenses and international travel.
Newton International Fellowship: Approximately forty 2-year fellowships are given each year for research projects in the physical, natural and social sciences as well the humanities. Fellows receive 24,000 pound (approximately $37,000) stipends as well as research and relocation stipends.
Rhodes Scholarship: The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest and one of the most prestigious international fellowships in the world. Each year, 32 Americans are selected for study at the University of Oxford.
Saltire Scholarship: This program offers up to 200 scholarships to Scotland worth 2,000 pounds each (approximately $3,100).
Snowdon Award: The Snowdon Award Scheme provides grants of up to 2,000 pounds ($31,00) to students with physical or sensory disability for higher education and training. The award covers disability-related costs such as accommodations and equipment.
Although efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, MIUSA/NCDE cannot be held liable for inaccuracy, misinterpretation or complaints arising from these listings. Mention of an organization, company, service or resource should not be construed as an endorsement by MIUSA/NCDE. Please advise NCDE of any inaccuracies you may find.