No visit to England would be complete without a visit to a palace, and Kensington Palace is a good choice for that if you want to see one conveniently located in London or if you’re a fan of the late Princess Diana. Kensington became her home after her separation from Prince Charles, and will soon become the home of Prince William and his celebrated new wife.
Kensington Palace is a historic building, and currently not completely accessible to people in wheelchairs. Consequently, people with disabilities get discounted tickets and one companion can accompany you for free. You must notify the admissions staff when purchasing your tickets to get this discount, and also to allow the staff time to prepare the accommodations you’ll need to visit the accessible areas. This means a liveried staff member must scurry around ahead of you, putting up portable ramps and opening French doors. Think of it as having your own footman for a couple of hours!
If you have trouble maintaining your body temperature, you should know that the palace gets quite chilly in the winter. It has no insulation, and the costs of heating it are quite high.
My favorite part of Kensington Palace was having tea at The Orangery, a cafe in the former greenhouse on the grounds of the palace. Sure it was overpriced, but you get to truthfully say you had scones and tea at a palace. There is a long ramp leading up to the Orangery, but the disabled parking near it approximately two minutes’ walk from the palace is limited and should probably be booked in advance.
If mobility problems make it difficult for you to traverse the 760 acres of parks surrounding Kensington Palace, consider taking advantage of the electric buggies offered between May and October. The buggies are capable of seating five ambulatory people and one wheelchair user; call 07767 498096 for more information on schedules or to arrange for one.
At the time of my visit, the palace housed a collection of Princess Diana’s gowns and an exhibit about debutantes, and it just so happened that the other wheelchair user who was there that day had been one of the last debutantes when she was young. Ah, disability the great equalizer; the staff member helping us get around the palace showed her no more nor no last consideration than he did to me. Now, Kensington Palace currently houses the “Enchanted Palace” exhibit instead in the State Apartments on the first floor, but they are only accessible via one of two shallow staircases of 30 steps.
Never fear; Kensington Palace is currently undergoing renovations. The new extension, the new entrance, and the new garden will all be wheelchair accessible, and an elevator to all four floors will be added. “Kensington – a palace for everyone” will open in March 2012.
Courtesy of AccessibleNYC, a disability-friendly guide to visiting New York City. Accessibility means possibility!