Paris has promised to provide access to the Olympics. The clock is ticking.


Paris has made great strides in hosting the Summer Olympics, putting inclusivity and accessibility at the heart of the city. For example, the newly built 128-acre Olympic and Paralympic Village has been hailed by organizers and advocacy groups as a shining example of universal design, featuring accessible buildings, multisensory signage, and a zone for assistance dogs. . The city plans to have 1,000 wheelchair-accessible taxis by the start of the Games (up from just 250 in 2022), and Uber plans to increase its fleet of wheelchair-accessible vehicles from 40 to 170.

Despite this progress, advocacy groups such as APF France Handicap are concerned that the city remains unprepared for visitors with disabilities. For example, Pascal Ribes, the group's president, said trains and airlines must be notified in advance to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs.

And even that isn't always enough, explained Ribes, who uses a wheelchair. Recently, she said, staff at a Paris airport refused to let her take her personal wheelchair onto the jet bridge after a domestic flight. On another occasion, she nearly missed a connecting flight while waiting for promised help.

France's first law mandating accessibility in public spaces dates back to 1975, but effective enforcement has been a challenge. The Olympic and Paralympic Games have brought new urgency to this issue. “It's not just about accessibility for people with mobility issues,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in an interview last month. It concerns all disabilities, including sensory disorders. “This will be a very important legacy of the Olympics,” she added.

Lamia El Aalaje, Deputy Mayor for Universal Accessibility and People with Disabilities, has been working to make shops, schools, public services, cultural and sports facilities, buses and trams more accessible across the city. In the past 10 months, at least 1,750 bus stops have been retrofitted with wheelchair ramps for buses.



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