Ahead of the Olympics and Paralympics, Paris is failing disabled tourists


Paris, like other ancient European cities, is not necessarily the most accessible place for a wheelchair holiday or to host the Paralympics. But in my experience, a little planning goes a long way and exploring the city is a lot easier than it might seem at first glance. I've been to Paris several times using both manual and powered wheelchairs and was able to see everything I wanted to see, do and, most importantly, eat.

Like other cities such as London and New York, the subway is pretty much a no-go zone here, with the exception of the new 14 line, which is now fully accessible. There are accessible subway stations on other lines, but I was only in the city for a long weekend and didn't think it was worth the stress of navigating the subway. What really frustrated me was how hard it was to find an accessible taxi, especially compared to London. If you don't book in advance, you'll be stuck waiting for a long time. So I was happy to hear that there are plans to increase the number of accessible taxis, from just 250 to 1,000 in 2022. It's a shame the city isn't using the opportunity, and perhaps pressure, of the Paralympics to further improve its public transport system.

But for me, it didn't matter that Paris doesn't have the same great transport links as London, because the French capital stands out for its accessibility. It's easy to walk between the main sights, navigate in a wheelchair, and make your way through the city's beautiful streets. This way you get to see more of the place, and have more excuses to sample patisseries along the way. I love cities where you don't have to worry about getting from point A to point B. Paris' compact centre and well-placed low curbs make sightseeing a breeze.

The sights themselves are very accessible, and almost all have discounted tickets for people with disabilities and their companions. The elevator down to the Louvre pyramid is a great experience in itself, and both times I went to see the Mona Lisa, a kind security guard escorted me to the front of the crowd for a better view. Just be aware that even if there is an elevator right next to the vast palace staircase, it doesn't necessarily get you to the same place. But it feels like every effort is made at the major sights, and I was happy to find there is an elevator that bypasses the rather intimidating spiral staircase at Sainte-Chapelle. Sainte-Chapelle is definitely worth a visit, and often you can even avoid the queue.

Museums are also great places to use the toilet. Just like in London, even restaurants and bars with no steps don't always have accessible toilets. As always, we had to be strategic about toilets and drinks. Accessible hotel rooms were also hard to find, and although they were available in the major chains, we had to give up hope of staying in a charming B&B in Paris. Luckily, we spent very little time in hotels, opting for convenience over ambience and staying at the centrally located Novotel Les Halles. Accessibility isn't perfect, but a run along the Seine in the sunshine is still fun.



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