I do not normally do posts about the problems and issues round travelling with a wheelchair. But having spent three days navigating our way around Paris, I am going to break my normal rule to give some tips and advice for those who might be planning something similar.
My first advice is of things to avoid:-
The Café Marly
We arranged to have lunch with friends in the Café Marly, convenient for the Louvre. We were made to wait fifteen minutes outside and then another fifteen minutes before being told there was no disabled access. I would have thought they might already know.
The RER is supposedly disabled accessible. It is if you can find someone to manage the special ramp required to get on to the train, but we did not know this before we arrived on the platform, so missed several trains before retracing our steps to find someone to assist. Not straightforward in Chatelet when we were late for a performance of Cabaret (we left two hours to get there).
Lines One and Two are also supposedly disabled accessible. They are not.
In many ways, walking in Paris is the greatest possible pleasure. But not so much with a wheelchair. The pavements are narrow. Shopkeepers often put out advertisements mounted on an immovable metal base making the pavement impassable. People are, perhaps not surprisingly, annoyed to be confronted by a wheelchair blocking the pavement, especially in the Marais on a Saturday afternoon.
But it was not all bad:-
Everyone on Eurostar in both London and Paris was incredibly helpful.
Parisian buses are fantastic (when they come) – fast, spacious, easy to get on and off, better than in London. They go everywhere and Google makes finding routes straightforward.
In general, the people in museums were pretty helpful, particularly one of the guards in the Musée de la Chasse.
There is a taxi app called G7 with which you can book accessible taxis. It worked really well except for the time when none were available.
So, all-in-all, it can be done, but is far from straightforward. In London, legislation must have made installing lifts compulsory, particularly for public institutions, but in Paris, the culture feels very different: much less sympathetic both institutionally and culturally. It makes one grateful for London’s culture of tolerance and helpfulness.
The benefit – oddly – is that everything takes a lot of time, which slows one down and allows one to look about and pay attention.
4 thoughts on “A wheelchair in Paris”
charles, well done though despite all the difficulties..
with loving effort you did achieve a splendid trip for 2 that had great rewards but i know from experience it was not without challenges
Yes, it was so worth it overall. Charles
I only had a few months in a wheelchair after being hit by a car some years back. Encased in plaster from toes to thigh I had to use the bus for regular trips to Newham General. I had, of course, no idea of just how trying this was going to be – a classic case of being ignorant of just how bad a deal many people were getting because it hadn’t previously impacted on me. The wheelchair space was frequently occupied by buggies and even when I could access it other passengers would pretty much sit on my lap. With an ageing population we have to get better at all of this – even if, as it seems – we are better at it than some other cities.
You’re right – it’s not exactly straightforward in London, but attitudes are better, I think. Charles