Anger as France delays wheelchair access laws

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.

Anger as France delays wheelchair access laws
Wheelchair access delays have left the disabled community angered. Photo. AFP

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)

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


French train inspector demands limbless man prove he’s disabled

French rail ticket inspectors are known for being sticklers when it comes to enforcing rules but asking a famous quadriplegic Frenchman to prove he merits a disabled travel discount is taking things to extremes.

French train inspector demands limbless man prove he's disabled
Photo: Philippe Croizon/Twitter

Philippe Croizon, a household name in France after achieving the remarkable feat of becoming the first quadruple-amputee athlete to swim the Channel, was travelling on the TER train between Rouen and Paris.

Having no arms or legs obviously meant Croizon qualified for reduced-cost travel on account of being severely disabled.

Nevertheless a ticket inspector on the service demanded Croizon show his “carte d'invalidité”, an ID card disabled people must carry to prove they are eligible for a discount.

Apparently the fact Croizon was in a wheelchair and clearly has no forearms and hands nor lower legs and feet, wasn't enough to convince the inspector.

A shocked Croizon tweeted out a picture of himself with the hashtag #triste (sad) and “touteestpossible (anything is possible) but remained calm during the exchange.

However passengers around him made their disgust known to the SNCF inspector, after which he reportedly dropped his demand to see Croizon's disability card and moved on down the carriage.

Croizon had been a steel worker by trade, until he was electrocuted in March 1994 while working at his house in Saint Remy-sur-Creuse in central France.

He was forced to have both arms and legs amputated in the aftermath of the horrific accident.

The quadriplegic even defended the inspector on Twitter saying “he could have been having a bad day or maybe he was tired.”

However French authorities have long been criticized for their attitude towards disabled people, especially when it comes to transport.

In 2015 a group supporting France's disabled community handed a “file of shame” to the French government as it emerged that thousands were forced into “exile” in Belgium where facilities and support are considered far better.


France's disabled forced into 'exile' in Belgium