Paris Access Insights
by John D. Taylor 2005

John D. Taylor, who is visually impaired and shared his Cambridge Access web site with Global Access last month, recently visited Paris and submitted his access insights.

Tayor writes:

“I do now see that Paris can be a real problem for wheelchair users. I had problems with badly marked stairs and the like. The Hotel Pavilion Louvre Rivoli I stayed in (20 Rue Moliere, 75001 Paris. Phone: 0033 142603120) had two ground floor rooms, but I am not sure whether the ground floor rooms are meant to be for disabled people. Still, it may be worthwhile contacting them. It is within walking distance of the Louvre. According to a guide I used, at least 70% of the Louvre is accessible by lift.

In terms of breakfast, the hotel normally offers a continental breakfast, which they can provide in your bedroom. The breakfast room is down a good six steps from the basement floor in the lift. This would be the only way I can see of a wheelchair user having breakfast, I’m afraid.

I do believe that if you do want to use the metro to get to the Louvre, Pyramides is a very good stop. It has full lift access, and I did notice that all stations had extra wide gates. I am for one very pleased to see this, and I am actually passing this thought onto the Access Officer at Transport for London. It would save staff a lot of hassle at wheelchair accessible stations with gates when there could be a wheelchair accessible gate for both directions; one per station, which operated in both directions.. Now that I have seen this in practice, I think London is missing out on a major access improvement for the tube, which would make a heck a lot of common sense.

On a note for the Louvre toilets: I do not class the availability of supports for transferring adequate. They are, if anything, nonexistent, and this does seem to be the way with most toilets.

Also, stations such as Pyramides do have superloos, and these take 30 cents, in 3 coins. The supports inside and the design for disabled use were a disgrace. They would be best avoided unless absolutely desperate. One unit was quite clear that it was either not designed for cleaning the floor, or did not clean it whatsoever as there was toilet paper all over the place, including the sink. These toilets are for 15-minute use. I did not find any of the accessible superloos on the streets. The standard ones are, to say the least, not big enough for wheelchair users.

Also, at the Louvre: Do not use any other entrances except the Pyramides. Also, the lift in the Pyramides is available for use, but you must ask a member of staff to use it. And a word of warning at the top, it can feel rather wobbly--although the speed and such like it travels at is very good.

Getting around the Louvre: The lifts are far between, and getting to separate sections may involve going back down into the basement area, which has the exit, and changing lifts. There is no other real way I can see of doing this. For example, getting to the Mona Lisa, will take at least 2-3 lifts.

Regarding buses: I noticed that there are a lot of accessible buses on routes 26, 86 and others that pass the Louvre. These do have automated ramps, which are operated on the press of a button. Use the middle entry doors.

On a general note, the disabled toilets in the department stores can be described as less than adequate. There were no support arms or anything like that.

The lifts at the Au Printemps department store are now up to date, and they are Otis lifts, with fully automated doors. I will mention that the 9th floor restaurant there is not wheelchair accessible, even though it has fantastic views.

On Galleries Lafayette: This store at the moment has one fully modernised lift, but it goes up to all the floors, including the top floor. The old traditional lifts there are currently out of action for modernisastion, leaving the store with the one large glass lift.

In the other building, there is one modern lift for the main store, which is very hard to find right at the back of the store. There are two other glass lifts, but these, according to a sign, don’t stop on the 1st floor. But the other lift, due to its location, is normally available immediately to answer your call, as it seems to be hardly used. There are also around four car park lifts, which serve the main store, but on those on the 2nd floor is not possible to get access to-- a case of locating the hard to find lift. I am going to be contacting them and asking for a review of signage so they see the problem from someone’s point of view like myself. It is virtually impossible to locate.

The Pyramides tube station is roughly a 5-10 minute walk from the Louvre and is a short distance from the hotel mentioned above. The main Louvre Riverlie Tube Station is not wheelchair accessible, and a lot of the metro still has a lot of stairs and such like. But the same line that serves Pyrmadies also serves Madeleine, a central shop area and also I believe the Avenue Chandlesea as well. These trains do have plenty of space near the doors for wheelchairs. And the trains do have an interconnection between the carriages without doors or anything. A word of warning, though, in the early morning---those lifts can get heavily used by commuters, which is not very helpful especially when the lift is signed for disabled and buggies only.

On the ground right near the Eiffel Tower, there is actually a platform lift down to the public toilets. I don’t know whether this is a two-people operation, but it does provide access down to, I believe, an accessible toilet.

In regards to the Eiffel Tower: Use the north entry as this has ramped access, and although these lifts are large, when there are a lot of people standing around it can be rather squashed.

An important note: Most restaurants I found--even ones with ramped entrances--don’t have accessible toilets. So wheelchair users may end up having to find a restaurant near a public accessible toilet, like a superloo.

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