This text was updated in 2008.
Access in Paris is a guide for people who have problems getting around. It provides detailed information about travel, accommodation, leisure activities and tourist attractions for those with mobility problems. Users may include people who use a wheelchair, elderly persons, those who use a stick or crutches, and possibly those with young children. They may be day-trippers, people visiting relatives in Paris, and, of course, visitors and tourists.
The preparation, research, fundraising and organisation necessary to collect the information was carried out by the members of PHSP (Pauline Hephaistos Survey Projects). The information is firmly based on the experiences of disabled people, and virtually every entry has been wheeled into or walked into, and measured, by our survey teams. Most of the information gathering was mainly carried out during 2006 and 2007.
We have tried to be objective by describing what the barriers are in various places, where they are, and how (if possible) to get around them. This approach allows you to make up your own mind as to whether or not a visit is practicable, or on how much help you might need. We have included many places where a real effort has been made to overcome barriers. Do bear in mind, however, that inclusion in the guide doesn’t imply accessibility, and what we’re doing is to describe the places listed.
In the material published here we have included General information, together with accessibility information about key places (hotels and some major places of interest) in central Paris. There is an extensive listing of Useful organisations and contact points. There is advice on Travelling to Paris, on Getting around in Paris, and detailed information on central Paris:
- Accessible Accommodation in Central Paris
- Sights and interesting places in Central Paris
- Sights and interesting places Outside the Centre
There is also an explanation of the Units and abbreviations which are used, so that the way that lifts and loos are described, for example, and some of the ‘shorthand’ used in the write-ups is explained.
Why travel and why Paris ?
The cliché says that travel broadens the mind and there’s a lot of truth in that. All these PHSP (Pauline Hephaistos Survey Projects is the name of our group) access guides started back in the 1970s when some of us wanted to travel. The group consisted of disabled and able-bodied young people and over the years we have been to various parts of France, to Jersey, Norway, Germany and Israel.
We had an enormous amount of fun. We met all kinds of problems and it was a challenge sorting them out, although perhaps that didn’t always seem to be fun at the time. We learned a lot. We encountered new cultures and people. We have met many people who have been helpful, friendly and interesting, as well as a few who were downright awkward and unhelpful. Overall we have a lot of things to look back on and to talk about.
You will have your own reasons for wanting to travel. We hope that you’ll find it as interesting and rewarding as we have! If you haven’t travelled much and feel a bit hesitant about it, we recommend that you look at Nothing ventured edited by Allison Walsh (a Rough Guide special, published by Harrap Columbus, London). This includes the stories of disabled people going to all kinds of exotic places, as well as to destinations in Britain and in northern Europe. If you haven’t got the travel bug already, some of the tales will probably give it to you.
Paris is unquestionably a lovely city; many would argue it is the most beautiful in the world. For a capital city, Paris is relatively small, and has a layout which has been controlled and developed for centuries. This gives it a certain grace and cohesion. The authorities have been careful to restrict the construction of high buildings and you will find the skyscrapers are all outside the main ring road, the boulevard Périphérique.
Wouldn’t sitting outside a café in a Paris square on a wonderfully sunny day, watching the world go by, be a welcome change? You can make your own pace and see a lot or a little. You may enjoy going to French restaurants and cafés much more than the culturally correct churches and art galleries. Either, or both, will give you new experiences.
Paris is a historic city with monuments that include Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. There are many many others. French history over the past three hundred years has been pretty dramatic with the rule of the aristocrats, the Revolution, the successes of Napoleon, the threat of invasion during the first world war and the reality of occupation in the second.
For a capital city there is a lot of reasonably inexpensive (and accessible) accommodation. Paris has a first class public transport system, although only small parts of it are accessible to wheelchair users.
If you have a problem in getting around, then one reason for going to Paris is that it is one of the few places with a well researched access guide!