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Paris by Wheelchair

Paris Is Accessible, but Where Are the Wheelchairs?

I have been going to Paris for 37 years, and my wife and I have walked it endlessly. The only difference between then and now is that my mobility is limited to a wheelchair.

Accommodations

The Michelin red guide for France indicates which hotels have accessible rooms. Two other sources list hotels with accessible rooms and provide other information for disabled tourists: Paris for Everyone: A Guide for People with Reduced Mobility, distributed by French National Tourist Offices, and Access Paris: A Guide for Those Who Have Trouble Getting Around (Quiller Press, 1993), available in travel bookstores.

Getting Around

Find a hotel room in the neighborhood where you will spend most of your time. The Metro was opened 100 years ago and is not accessible, so your companion will probably have to push you to most destinations.

Fortunately, most of Paris is flat and there are curb cuts at many intersections. Paris for Everyone (above) has a map of each arrondisement that indicates the streets with lowered curbs.

Some of the nicest walks are the pedestrian paths along both sides of the Seine, but we have never dared to try these paths: they are far below street level, and the ramps connecting the levels at most of the bridges are steep. In our experience, French people are generous in their offers of help, so someday we may accept and go down by the river.

At museums, people in wheelchairs and their companions go to the head of the line and pay no admission charge. The Louvre is quite accessible, and although not all sections have elevators, those that do not are near sections that do. Ask a guard. Some galleries are on more than one level, with little lifts connecting the levels. The Musée d’Orsay is accessible, but finding the elevators is not easy. (The books above give floor plans of museums.) If you cannot climb any stairs at all, forget about most museums in historically significant buildings. Cluny is an example.

Restaurants

When making a reservation we always tell the restaurant that I am disabled and I must sit at the table in my wheelchair. Few restaurants have bathrooms for the disabled.

I wonder where the French people with disabilities are. You do not see French in wheelchairs on the streets or in museums. The one time when I saw a scooter on the street in Paris the owner was an American who had brought her scooter from home.

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