Paris is an ancient city and therefore not particularly well equipped for visiteurs handicapés (disabled visitors): kerb ramps are few and far between, older public facilities and budget hotels usually lack lifts, and the metro, dating back more than a century, is mostly inaccessible for those in a wheelchair (fauteuil roulant).
But efforts are being made to improve things. The tourist office continues its excellent ‘Tourisme & Handicap’ initiative, under which museums, cultural attractions, hotels and restaurants that provide access, special assistance or facilities for those with physical, cognitive, visual and/or hearing disabilities display a special logo at their entrances. Online, its FACIL'iti service allows you to create your own profile to personalise the web content of parisinfo.com according to your particular motor, sensory and/or cognitive needs.
The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau’s main office is equipped with a service called ACCEO, which makes it possible for people who are deaf or hearing impaired to ask for information. With the help of a French sign-language operator, users can communicate via a webcam, microphone and speakers. Instant speech transcription is available, too.
- Visit www.parisinfo.com/accessibility for a wealth of useful information organised by theme – getting there and around, attractions, accommodation and cafes/bars/restaurants – as well as practical information such as where to rent medical equipment or locate automatic public toilets. You can download the up-to-date 27-page Accessible Paris guide, which is also available in hard copy from tourist-information centres in the city.
- For information about which cultural venues in Paris are accessible to people with disabilities, visit Accès Culture (http://accesculture.org).
- J’Accède (www.jaccede.com) maintains a searchable database of accessible venues sourced from the local disabled community and has thousands of entries in Paris alone. It is also available as a smartphone app.
- Handycairn (www.handycairn.com/en) is a user-friendly, extensive, searchable database of tourist and leisure activities filterable by type of disability, region, type of activity and type of accommodation/restaurant/service with detailed access information under each entry.
- Mobile en Ville works hard to make independent travel within the city easier for people in wheelchairs. Among other things it organises wheelchair randonnées (walks) in and around Paris; those in wheelchairs are pushed by 'walkers' on roller skates; contact the association well ahead of your visit to take part.
- Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel Online Resources from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel for heaps more useful websites, including travel agents and tour operators.
The SNCF has made many of its train carriages more accessible to people with disabilities. For information and advice on planning your journey from station to station, contact the SNCF service Accès Plus. The SNCF also has an 88-page Reduced Mobility Guide, available to view interactively or to download in French; go to www.accessibilite.sncf.com/documents-a-telecharger/guide-des-voyageurs-a-mobilite.
Info Mobi has detailed information about public transport in the Île-de-France region, surrounding Paris, filterable by disability type.
Taxis G7 has hundreds of low-base cars and 120 cars equipped with ramps, and drivers trained in helping passengers with disabilities. Guide dogs are accepted in its entire fleet.