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Accessibility in the UK
People visiting, living, or working in the United Kingdom are protected against discrimination by law. This means equal opportunities for all, including those with limited mobility. Public sector organisations and businesses of all shapes and sizes are legally bound to make sure premises are accessible and free from barriers to those who rely on aids such as wheelchairs to get around. Most major towns and cities, particularly London, have made huge strides in improving access. But advances in accessibility have been made all across the UK – even in relatively rural areas.
As a result of rebuilding post-WWII, many UK cities have far fewer uneven, cobblestone streets and public places than comparable European centres. The capital also underwent a lot of construction ahead of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games, becoming more accessible to athletes and tourists. This has positively impacted public transport which has been renewed to better serve the needs of all, irrespective of ability.
Most people arrive in the UK at one of London’s hub airports, but regional terminals across the UK cater to an ever-increasing number of international travellers. Most feature highly efficient terminals, well linked by road and rail. Passengers can expect high-quality facilities and well-trained staff to help them on arrival, with several onward travel options.
All taxis accept foldable wheelchairs, and many (particularly ‘Black Cabs’ in major cities) are fully accessible using ramps. Transport for London (TfL) offers subsidised fares for those with mobility issues using a scheme called Taxicard, and a door-to-door service is available in much of the UK called Dial-a-Ride. It’s a free service available for shopping or visiting friends and family, but not for travel to work.
Buses in London and the provinces are accessible to all using low floors and retractable ramps. Travel is free for wheelchair users or anyone registered as blind. Assistance dogs are also permitted on all public transport in the UK.
The UK’s largest metro service is the London Underground (though much of it runs overground) often called ‘the Tube’. Around a third of underground stations, half the overground stations, most river taxi piers, all tram stops, the IFS Cloud Cable Car and all Docklands Light Railway (DLR) stations are fully accessible. There are special maps and apps for the visually impaired. TfL also has trained staff to help at each station with ticket machines, and blind passengers can ask for assistance to be led to and from platforms.
Every international car rental company is available in the UK. Only those 21 and over can rent a car and most agencies add a surcharge for those under 25. The usual documentation will also be necessary, including a credit card in the main driver’s name, a valid licence, and a passport.
LGBTQ+ in the UK
London is one of the most diverse and progressive cities in the world. Diversity is in the rainbow makeup of the capital's almost 9 million residents. Same-sex marriage is legal in every part of the UK, and foreign same-sex marriages are also recognised, provided they have been properly performed in accordance with the law of their originating country.
The UK commemorated 50 years of Pride in 2022 – which is celebrated in all large cities – notably Brighton, which is an hour from London and famed for its LGBTQ+ community and social scene. London hosts a wide variety of inclusive groups and organisations to help everyone feel at home. Soho and the West End famously offer open nightlife for people from all walks of life into the early hours, including one of the best clubbing scenes in the world. Lots of incredible venues are accessible to all, but some need a little advance notice or planning.
London is also home to the UK’s only museum dedicated to LGBTQ+ history. It’s an inclusive space that proudly welcomes everyone – regardless of gender or sexuality – dedicated to celebrating the stories, people and places that are intrinsic to the queer community in the UK and beyond.
Gender equality in the UK
2018 marked 100 years since women in Britain won the right to vote. Discrimination based on gender is illegal in the UK: everyone, regardless of gender, can expect the same rights and opportunities. While the pay and power gap between males and females still exists, progress is being made.
Women in leadership in the UK
Across the UK, women earn 13 percent less than men in the same roles – and they hold just 38 percent of managerial positions. All employers are expected to take proactive steps to ensure women are paid and treated equally in the workplace. They are encouraged to demonstrate a zero-tolerance approach to every form of discrimination or harassment. Year-on-year, women’s representation on company boards and salaries relative to their male equals are becoming more balanced.
Mental health in the UK
It's not uncommon to experience problems with emotional wellbeing through concerns about work, family, finances or future – including neglect or abuse. Mental health support is widely available in the UK through the National Health Service (NHS) and many private providers. Traditional societal barriers and stigma have been broken down, and public and professional attitudes are open to talking about and supporting mental health needs.
Unconscious bias in the UK
Unconscious bias refers to the prejudices absorbed when living in unequal societies. Preconceptions around gender, age and ethnicity inhibit effective hiring, limit development and lowers staff morale. The UK government and large organisations are improving many practices that hold minority groups back, including reforms to recruitment processes and mentoring. There is still progress to be made, but the UK leads many European countries in promoting equal opportunity for all in the workplace.
Diversification of the workforce in the UK
Diversity recognises that everyone is different in visible and non-visible ways, and those differences should be respected, valued, promoted and celebrated. Most urban areas look and feel multicultural, particularly if one spends time in any international company. Almost 20 percent of IT professionals in the UK were born overseas, and almost a third of tech specialists in London are from ethnic minority backgrounds. Public services are actively recruiting to ensure their staff makeup matches the ethnic mix of the population at large.
Safety in the UK
The UK is largely a safe place to live and work. In terms of overall safety from crime, England ranks 34th out of 193 countries. However, there are still some poorer, more urbanised areas where crime rates are higher than average. Violent crime is relatively rare, but some British cities are less safe at night, often linked to attitudes toward alcohol. Despite this, most people feel safe on the streets and in their homes. Taxis and public transport are safe and reliable, as you would expect in such a developed country. Pickpocketing is the most common form of street crime, mainly targeting tourists around popular landmarks.
Women’s safety in the UK
The safety of women in the UK is similar to much of continental Europe. Walking alone at night does present dangers in certain city suburbs, but common sense and awareness prevail – and women can dress as they wish without fear or judgement.
Calendar initiatives in the UK
4 February – World Cancer Day
8 March – International Women’s Day
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
June – Pride Month
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
10 October – World Mental Health Day
November – "Movember" (Prostate Cancer Awareness and Men's Mental Health Month)
14 November – World Diabetes Day
1 December – World AIDS Day
►Find out more about Culture Shock in the UK
Are you an expat living in The United Kingdom?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to The United Kingdom. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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