Protest for disabled access in France ahead of the Paris Olympics – NewsFinale

PARIS – An influential disability rights group in France is boycotting a conference on disability on Wednesday with French President Emmanuel Macron, amid frustration over years of broken promises to make Paris more accessible ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2024.

The Collectif Handicaps group, a group that brings together more than 50 organizations that defend the rights of people with disabilities, announced hours before the conference in Paris that it would not participate. Its leaders had asked for the opportunity to speak in front of Macron and were denied. The group is concerned that the measures Macron is expected to announce on Wednesday they do not reach what is needed.

Even getting to the conference at the Elysee Palace is ordeal for many people it is designed to help. The nearest wheelchair-accessible metro line is approximately one kilometer (half a mile) away. Public buses in Paris are unwieldy and time consuming for people with limited mobility.

The 2024 Olympics risk highlighting how inaccessible France is, in contrast to advances in other wealthy countries.

“We really want the games to be a success,” Pascale Ribes, president of the APF France Handicap lobby group, said in an interview with the Associated Press, but France needs to “push on the gas” because “a catastrophic scenario is looming.” if we don’t.”

This month, an arm of the Council of Europe, the continent’s top human rights body, found France in violation of a European treaty on social and economic rights, citing multiple failures towards adults and children with disabilities.

Macron’s office says the conference is the result of discussions with people with disabilities and others, and aims to mobilize the whole of society to find “solutions to transform the daily lives of people with disabilities, from school to work.” and accessibility problems. It is unclear what specifically will be announced to help people like Ribes and those who are boycotting.

The looming deadlines of the Olympic Games from July 26 to August 11, 2024 and the Paralympics from August 28 to September 8 also add to the pressure.

Olympic organizers say Paris will “provide the best possible conditions for para-athletes and visitors with disabilities.” They say their goal is “a barrier-free experience for all”, with 100% of the places accessible to people with disabilities and all the volunteers of the games must be trained to meet their needs, in order to “prevent users from they feel they have some kind of disability.”

For people like Ribes, who uses a wheelchair, it seems like a long shot.

More than a century after Paris inaugurated its first metro line, for the Olympic Games and the 1900 World’s Fair, most of the capital’s historic metro system remains inaccessible to people who use wheelchairs. In the network of 309 stations, only one line with 13 stations is fully accessible.

Other Olympic cities have done better. In Tokyo, more than 90% of the 758 train and subway stations were already wheelchair accessible when the 2021 Olympic Games took place. At the London 2012 venue, around a third of the subway stations are accessible no steps. In Barcelona, ​​site of the 1992 Olympic Games, transport operator TMB says that 153 of its 165 metro stations are accessible.


More AP coverage of the Paris Olympics:


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