Anger as France delays wheelchair access laws

Oliver Gee
Oliver Gee - [email protected]
Anger as France delays wheelchair access laws
Wheelchair access delays have left the disabled community angered. Photo. AFP

France's disabled community has been left irate after the government said laws requiring businesses and public transport services to make improvements to wheelchair access would be delayed by up to nine years.


Public buildings in France were supposed to be wheelchair friendly by 2015 - but most have not made the necessary amendments that were outlined in a 2005 accessibility bill.

In fact, the government estimates that only about 15 to 40 percent of the buildings that were required to improve their disabled access by this year have managed to do so, even though they were facing a €45,000 ($49,500) non-compliance fine.
However, in a move that has angered disabled groups, the government has responded by giving buildings multi-year extensions of their deadlines. 
Actor, director, and Multiple Sclerosis sufferer Dominique Farrugia took to Twitter to show his irritation by mocking the government.
"I suggest we block the gates of Paris with our wheelchairs. Ah... but how are we going to get there," he tweeted.
He later tweeted that the government's decision was "simply unacceptable".
Nicolas Mérille, a spokesman for the Association des Paralysés de France, blamed "a lack of political will" in an interview with Europe 1 radio.
Whether it's down to will or a lack of funding, the extensions will go ahead. Buildings with a capacity of less than 200 people will get an extra three years, while larger buildings were given extensions of six to nine years.
Urban public transport networks also saw a three-year extension, while the French rail network was given nine years. 
All these buildings and services were told that the extensions were conditional to their submission of detailed plans with local authorities before October this year. 
If plans are not lodged, those responsible will face a €2,500 fine. 
The government's apparent lack of concern for the disabled minority was brought to the public's attention in 2013 when the wheelchair of limbless French swimming hero Philippe Croizon's was stolen.
His call for the "liberté, egalité, fraternité" that the French Revolution promised over 200 years ago struck a chord with the French public. 

(Philippe Croizon. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP)


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