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HomeHealth & FitnessParis Promised the Olympics Would Be Accessible. The Clock Is Ticking.

Paris Promised the Olympics Would Be Accessible. The Clock Is Ticking.


Paris put inclusivity and accessibility at the center of its bid to host the Summer Games, and the city has made a great deal of headway. For example, the newly built 128-acre Olympic and Paralympic Village, hailed by the organizers and advocacy groups as a shining example of universal design, offers accessible buildings, multisensory signage and zones for assistance dogs. The city plans to have 1,000 wheelchair-accessible taxis by the time the Games open (it had just 250 in 2022), and Uber will increase its fleet of accessible vehicles to 170, from 40.

Despite this progress, advocacy groups like APF France Handicap are concerned that the city remains unprepared for visitors with disabilities. For example, said Pascale Ribes, the group’s president, train and airline companies need to be notified in advance to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs.

And even that isn’t always enough, explained Ms. Ribes, who uses a wheelchair: Recently, she said, staff members at a Paris airport refused to bring her personal wheelchair to the jet bridge after a domestic flight. Another time she almost missed her connecting flight waiting for promised assistance.

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

Lamia El Aaraje, the deputy mayor in charge of universal accessibility and people with disabilities, has worked to make shops, schools, public services, cultural and sports facilities, and buses and trams accessible across the city. In the last 10 months, at least 1,750 bus shelters have been renovated to be compatible with bus wheelchair ramps.



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