How to access the Houses of Parliament

Hello, I’m Tanni, Baroness Grey-Thompson and
a cross-bench peer in The House of Lords. Welcome to the Houses of Parliament, the very
heart of British democracy. These are historic buildings and it would be easy to think, with
some parts of the Palace of Westminster dating back to 1097, that disabled access was non-existent. But I’m happy to say that there’s been lots
of work done to make sure that these important buildings are open for everyone – because
access needs to be democratic. And what’s more, there’s the Houses of Parliament Visitor
Services team, who are committed to making your experience as smooth and comfortable
as possible. They’ve produced a series of video access guides to help you plan ahead
for your visit. The Houses of Parliament look forward to welcoming you. Getting here The Palace of Westminster is one of the most
iconic landmarks in the world, attracting more than a million visitors a
year. People come to see the British Parliamentary process in action – viewing debates in the
Houses of Commons and Lords, or the work of the various Select Committees. Others come
to Westminster to take one of the many tours on offer. Located in the heart of London,
there are many ways to get here. Hello, I’m Nick. I’m a House of Commons Information
Officer. Here at Westminster we are very well served by public transport, which is great
because we have no public parking available on site. But if you do choose to drive, you
can pay to use Abingdon Car Park off Great College Street. There are also a limited number of blue badge
parking bays on streets further away. Please check Westminster City Council’s website for
details. That’s We are in the congestion zone, so do check
to see if charges apply to your vehicle. Blue Badge holders can register with Transport
for London for an exemption from the charge. Taxis can safely drop off close to Victoria
Tower and outside Portcullis House. All of London’s black cabs are fitted with ramps with space
for a standard wheelchair, grab rails, and an intermediate step. Most are fitted with
hearing induction loops and swivel seats for those with restricted mobility.
Assistance dogs travel free of charge. If you are planning to arrive by public transport,
do visit the Transport for London website, where you’ll find a route planner, maps and
access information. There are numerous bus routes that pass really
close to us. London buses are fitted with ramps and have spaces for wheelchair users.
If you find the step tricky, you can ask the driver to make the bus kneel for you. There
are priority seats near the front for those who have difficulty standing. Buses have a
PA system and visual display to let you know the route, destination and next stop. Westminster Underground station has step-free
access, with level access to the Jubilee line and manual ramps for the Circle and District
lines. If you are transferring from a national rail station onto the Underground, please
refer to Transport for London’s ‘Avoiding stairs’ tube guide for step-free stations
and interchanges and details of the gaps between the train and the platform. If you need assistance TfL staff are happy
to help and you don’t have to book in advance. For example, if you are visually impaired
please talk to station staff who will assist you onto your train and arrange for someone
to meet you off it at Westminster station. Should you wish to travel to the Houses of
Parliament by river, many of the pleasure boats that dock at Westminster Pier offer
an accessible service. Please check with the boat operator. When the weather is warm, I think arriving
at Westminster by boat is pretty magical! Staff on the river boats are helpful and will
assist disabled customers embark and disembark. Please be aware that the ramp is quite steep
so if you’re using a manual wheelchair you may need to bring a companion to help you. Please visit the TfL website,,
where you will find details on river boats, as well as other useful public transport access
information. Have a good journey here and we look forward
to your visit. Getting in The Palace of Westminster is open to all UK
and overseas visitors. People come for many reasons – perhaps a tour, an event or to meet
their Member of Parliament. You can view debates in the House of Commons, the House of Lords
and Select Committee hearings for free. To guarantee a place during busy periods such
as Prime Minister’s Question Time, UK residents should obtain a ticket in advance from their
MP or a Lord. Many visitors come to Portcullis House on
the Embankment for certain Select Committee hearings and events. However, most people
will need to come to the Main Visitors’ Entrance for the Palace of Westminster at Cromwell
Green, on St Margaret Street. Hi, I’m Sarah and I’m a senior doorkeeper
on the Parliamentary Estate. The first thing you need to do is pass through security. All
our security staff have disability awareness training and are extremely courteous. I have
a few tips for you. Before leaving home remember to bring with
you photo ID such as a passport or photo driving licence as well as your ticket, invite or
confirmation letter of attendance if you have one. Also please avoid bringing too many bags
or bulky items because there are no storage facilities and you may be refused entry. Security measures at Westminster are similar
to those used in airports. You and your bags will be subject to a search. Understandably, there are a number of items
which are not permitted to be brought into our buildings. These include: sharp items
including pen knives, scissors, cutlery and screwdrivers; paint spray; padlocks, chains
and climbing gear and items that make a noise. If you need to bring essential medical equipment
please speak to your host in advance. If in doubt, please contact the Serjeant at Arms
Office via the main switchboard, 020 7219 3000. At certain times it can get very busy so please
allow plenty of time to pass through security. You may have to queue outside for a while
so ensure you have suitable clothing. If you have difficulty standing for long periods,
please speak to a Visitor Assistant. Once you’re through security you’ll be given
your unique visitors pass with your photo on a lanyard to wear round your neck. Please
keep it displayed at all times and hand it back on exit. Enjoy your visit. Getting around The Parliamentary Estate comprises a number
of buildings with a range of different access measures in place to ensure you have an enjoyable
and memorable visit. There are plenty of friendly, helpful staff on hand to assist you. Hello, my name is Monika and I’m a Visitor
Assistant. After leaving security you will come into Westminster Hall where one of us
will be on hand to help you. We have wheelchairs available to loan, which you can book in advance.
However, you will need to bring a companion to push you, as we can’t provide personal
escorts. Thirty-seven steps lead from Westminster Hall
up to the principal floor to give access to Central Lobby, and the House of Lords and
House of Commons Chambers. If you are unable to manage the steps, a Visitor Assistant will
escort you on a longer route round to a lift. The lift is 150 by 105 centimetres. The public gallery of the House of Commons
has step-free access via the same lift. The gallery has spaces for wheelchairs and assistance
dogs. If you are visiting the House of Lords gallery
and aren’t able to use the stairs, we will seat you at the back of the main Chamber instead. All committee and dining rooms have step-free
access. Our information desk has an induction hearing loop. We now have an infra red-driven
hearing loop system available in every House of Commons committee room. If you have an
assistance dog, we can provide a sandpit and water bowl. Some public events and committee meetings
are held in Portcullis House, which has step-free access throughout. Meetings
may also take place in other buildings on the Parliamentary Estate. If you are attending
a meeting or function by invitation, then you will need to contact your host ahead of
your visit to discuss access requirements. Your host will ensure everything is in place
before you arrive. We look forward to welcoming you. Taking a tour Many visitors come to the Houses of Parliament
for a tour of the historic buildings. If you are a UK citizen, then a free tour of either
the Palace of Westminster or Big Ben can be arranged through your MP or a member of the
Lords. These extremely popular Members’ tours can be booked up to 6 months ahead. Alternatively,
you can choose to purchase tickets for guided and audio tours when Parliament is not in
session, on Saturdays, and on most weekdays during recess times. If you wish to go on a tour it is advisable
to purchase tickets in advance. On-the-day tickets, subject to availability,
can be purchased from the ticket office at the front of Portcullis House. Disabled visitors can bring an escort free
of charge, but will still need a ticket. Details of all tours are on the website, Hello, my name is Andrea, I’m a Visitor Assistant.
With the exception of Big Ben and Art and Architecture Tours, which begin in Portcullis
House, all other tours start after you’ve entered Westminster Hall. This is reached
via the main Visitor’s Entrance at Cromwell Green. There are three types of tour around the Houses
of Parliament. You can book an audio tour, which takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes,
or a guided tour, which lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes, UK residents who are blind or partially
sighted can arrange a tactile tour. Spaces are limited, so please book in advance. We have a range of options for people with
hearing impairments. If you use a hearing aid, induction loops
are available for use during the tours. A hearing loop system can be provided upon request.
You can also borrow a handset with a screen-based version of the audio tour. If you require a BSL signer we can provide
someone, but we will need to book this ahead of your visit. The audio and guided tours
are also popular with blind and partially sighted visitors. All tours cover quite a distance with a very
limited opportunity to sit down. As there are only three designated seating
points on each of the tours, you may wish to book a wheelchair in advance. Please bring
a companion to assist though, as we can’t provide someone to push you. There are steps at the start and at the end
of the tour, but a Visitor Assistant will escort you on a step-free route. All other
parts of the tour route are wheelchair-accessible, except for St Stephen’s Hall which has steps
at either end but can be viewed from Central Lobby. If you wish to go on a tour of Big Ben, please
be aware that it involves a steep flight of 334 steps. You must be fit and capable of
undertaking such a strenuous climb. We want to ensure you have a happy and enjoyable experience. Refreshments and toilet facilities The Palace of Westminster has a range of services
to ensure you have a comfortable visit, including accessible catering facilities and toilets. Hello, I’m Tracey. I work in the Visitor Services
Team. We have accessible toilets throughout the Parliamentary Estate. Please speak to
a Visitor Assistant who can direct you to the nearest one. We have one extra large toilet
facility which meets the ‘Changing Places’ standard. It’s in the Lower Waiting Hall, just off Central
Lobby. The room has a large turning circle. It’s 3 metres square. There’s a hoist, bed
and the toilet is 48 centimetres high. For visitors to Portcullis House, the two
accessible toilets are on the first floor, which you can get to via a central lift. The
dimensions are 214 by 150 centimetres, with the toilet 44 centimetres high. If you are attending a function or event,
our restaurants and dining rooms have step free access. What’s more, the staff are warm
and welcoming. Refreshments are available in the Jubilee
Cafe. As you enter Westminster Hall from the main Visitor’s Entrance on Cromwell Green,
the Jubilee Cafe is to the right down a short flight of steps or a lift. There’s a selection
of hot and cold drinks and snacks. Chairs and tables are not fixed and can be moved
to accommodate wheelchairs and mobility scooters. It is self-service, but staff are happy to
help. There’s nothing quite like sitting down in
the Jubilee Cafe to relax and reflect on your day. You can soak up the atmosphere – of what
used to be the old stable block – with a nice cuppa before heading off home. We look forward
to your visit! For all information, please go to This access film was produced by the Houses
of Parliament’s Visitor Services team and Gilbey Films.

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