The Eiffel Tower against blue sky and trees and buildings below it
Disability Travel

Travelling with a disability: Paris

20th October 2019

I have recently returned from a weekend away in Paris with my boyfriend, Sam. 

Being visually impaired and using a long white cane since I was around 16 years old, it’s interesting to see how people in different cultures and countries react and how different cities are accessible for disabled people. 

I am also visiting Berlin in January so I may turn this into a little travel series.

We stayed quite a way out of the centre of Paris, however, once we found there were a couple of Metro stations close by, we were able to get around really easily. I did notice that all of the Metro stations we visited seemed quite inaccessible, particularly for those with limited mobility like myself or a wheelchair user.  

Reasons that I feel like the metro stations (we visited) weren’t that accessible include:

  • A lot of steps, entering and navigating the station. We didn’t see any form of ‘accessible’ entrances or lifts.
  • The ticket barriers were very awkward and a tight space – doesn’t seem very accessible
  • There was often a significant gap between the train and platform edge – and no ramps anywhere to be seen as well as any station staff. 
  • Only some of the trains we got on had audio announcements and only a couple had visual cues – a flashing light to indicate the current/next stop on the line. 

So, I am unsure about using the Metro, how any disabled traveller can use them confidently, and on their own (unless locals know different).

Aside from this, there were clear signs for where to catch the trains, much like the London Underground, they had maps of each line (colour-coded too) and what all the stops were.

The locations and sights we chose to visit we planned how to get there in advance and they were in very close distance to the metro station. In my experience, visiting the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe were both accessible, with flat surfaces to walk on and people were generally aware of their surroundings and my white cane. We didn’t actually go up the Eiffel Tower, however, we did find a nice spot to sit in the sun (it was lovely weather the weekend we visited) and again, people were nice to enough to appreciate I needed space.

We also visited the Piere Lachaise Cemetary – again close to the metro station. The streets inside the cemetary were all cobbled, so was quite difficult to use my cane. It was quiet on the day we visited though so didn’t need to worry about it being too busy.

I often feel anxious bout flying and going through airports. London Gatwick and other UK airports I have used are often understanding that I will need more support and time to navigate the airport. Coming home it all felt very rushed going through security and didn’t really communicate very well with me when it was clear I had a visual impairment. 

Overall, Paris was a city I had always wanted to visit so I am glad we got to go. From the small snippets of the city that we did see, accessibility seems to be limited.

If you have a disability and have visited Paris, what were your thoughts? Do you have any recommendations for cities with good accessibility?

Ella x

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