Exploring Accessibility in London’s Public Spaces

Exploring London allowed me to develop several new perspectives on health, especially in improving my awareness of infrastructural accessibility. As an able-bodied person, I am privileged enough that I do not have to constantly worry about whether a building or mode of transport will meet my needs. Yet so many people rely on accommodations to navigate public spaces. Although the United States still has a long way to go in improving accessibility, I realized how much I took for granted at home.

Physical mobility features such as elevators, ramps, and wide doors appeared far less abundant in London. For instance, it seemed like most tube stations did not have elevators. When they were present, elevators at the stations often were so out of the way that you might have to navigate winding corridors to find them. Beyond just public transportation, London poses several other challenges for people with mobility issues. While its architectural layout displays its rich history, the cobblestone streets, spiral staircases, and narrow buildings do not constitute easy access for all visitors.

All things considered, I think London is actively trying to improve accessibility on several fronts. For instance, there were new signs about priority seating for pregnant mothers and people with disabilities on the tubes. Also, it seemed like many businesses and museums were trying to increase their availability of visual and hearing devices for patrons. Although I did not get a complete picture of the UK’s relationship with accessibility in my two weeks, I think I learned a lot, and I am hopeful that the city will continue to address some of these issues.

War of the Roses: Not Just Your Average Play

Although I’m a fan of Shakespeare, I’ve always been very hesitant about the histories. Prior to any exposure, I assumed that history plays would be boring, hard to understand, and irrelevant to me. Already Shakespeare’s language can be a bit difficult to take in, but I figured that having many similarly-named kings, and a lack of knowledge about British politics would make the history plays completely inaccessible to me. After seeing Henry VI, I see how incorrect those assumptions were. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and felt engaged the whole time. I was able to mostly follow the story, and I could hardly believe how fast the three-hour-long performance passed. I have never seen another performance quite like this. It felt like I was watching a movie unfold in front of my eyes. 

The physical theater space of the Royal Shakespeare Company played a large part in this. The small circular room created a more intimate atmosphere, with the audience hardly separated from the action. The actors created emotional tension and drama, which was heightened by their proximity to the audience. They blurred the boundaries between watching a performance and experiencing a story as part of the action. 

I really appreciated how this play established a narrative behind the history. I could see multiple perspectives of how and why this conflict. This play helped me could see how the personal relationships and emotions of people in power influenced the War of the Roses, and contributed to political instability.