Monday, March 7, 2011

Accessible or Not?

The French passed a law back in 1975 to improve public accommodations for persons with disabilities.  Among other reforms, there's dedicated parking for the disabled and crossing signals for the blind.   That being said, Paris is still a pretty tough town to get around in if you're in a wheelchair or for that matter pushing little ones in a stroller or lugging a big suitcase.  Curb cuts are intermittent and charming cobblestoned roads can make for a bumpy ride.   All buses are now equipped with ramps but the Metro?  With the exception of the mostly new line 14, the subway system is a nightmare of steps, steps, and more steps. Museums vary in their accessibility and the best advice I've heard is to always do a dry run to discover the best routes and entrances if you'll be having a visitor who uses a wheelchair.

Whether the problem is lax enforcement, limited resources, or simple apathy, I can't say.  A modest sized centre commercial near us was recently renovated, a process that took the better part of two years, with apparently only limited attention to these issues.  There's still a significant step between the sidewalk and the building.  Once inside, there's a flight of about six stairs to reach the main corridor.  Where there was once a rather steep ramp (probably more useful for folks rolling shopping caddies than those using wheelchairs), there is now a small elevator which most of the time seems to be sporting this sign:

Sigh. Twas ever thus.


Gail Boisclair said...

I agree that Paris is very behind and just had this conversation with someone on Friday. I personally do not know how someone with a wheelchair can live in Paris and do things on their own, unfortunately.

Starman said...

Paris has been "talking" about making the city more handicapped friendly, but it seems all they do is "talk". I have seen people on the sidewalks in wheelchairs and always wondered how do they get into the place to which they're going. I suppose they depend on the assistance of whoever happens to pass by. Both Frankfurt and Barcelona, to which we went last year, are far more handicapped friendly, and all public buildings, and most stores,have wheelchair ramps. One can only assume it's the Paris Attitude that keeps them behind the rest of the world. Just another reason I've changed my mind about ever trying to live there.

Anonymous said...

This is so true. And even if you're lucky enough to get in the store/restaurant/building, what if you have to use the toliet? How many toliets in France are either up or down the stairs? And my personal gripe, why in the blankety-blank can't they put French subtitles on more films for the hearing impaired (I'm not talking English, just French), that costs so little and I find that a real, REAL shame that they don't.

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