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France creates new guide of disability-accessible hotels, shops and restaurants

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
France creates new guide of disability-accessible hotels, shops and restaurants
The wheelchair symbol -- International Symbol of Access (ISA) in Paris (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

The French government has created a new website that lists the hotels, cafés, shops, restaurants and other public establishments that are accessible to people with disabilities.

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The website is called Accès Libre (free access) and it has been put together with the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games in mind - although it covers the whole of France, not just the capital.

Accès Libre has two main functions: the ability to search a certain area, using an interactive map, for accessible establishments, and the ability to check and/or recommend specific establishments.

The website is available in French and English - however some parts of the English version, including the interactive map, remained untranslated.

Information about establishments on the website is open-source, meaning anyone wishing to add an establishment can do so.

Here is how to use the Accès Libre

When you first get to the homepage for the Accès Libre website - acceslibre.beta.gouv.fr -  you will see the language option in the right hand corner, as well as the option to 'contribute' or 'explore' in the middle.

The homepage of Accès Libre

If you click 'Contribute' then you will be taken to a page where you can search to see if an establishment you know has already been listed. 

A screenshot from the Accès Libre website

You can also add an establishment if you would like to, but you will need various information including its address, contact information, analysis of how accessible the exterior and entrances are as well as whether or not staff are trained to receive people with disabilities.

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For those looking to find accessible establishments nearby, go to the 'Explore' link on the homepage.

This will take you to an interactive map of mainland France. You can narrow down your search by specifying the type of establishment you are looking to visit as well as the town or city that you are located in.

Screenshot from Accès Libre FR government website

Once you have clicked on an establishment, you can see its individual profile with more specific information regarding the accessibility - from whether or not steps are equipped with a handrail to the width (in centimetres) of the entrance door.

Screenshot from Accès Libre FR government website

Be sure to scroll down on this page to see all relevant information. An establishment being listed on Accès Libre does not guarantee its accessibility to all people with all types of disabilities. For instance, one hotel may offer accessible rooms for wheelchair users but they may not have a visual alarm system for the hearing-impaired.

As such, it is still recommended to call or email ahead of booking to ensure that the establishment will fit your personal requirements. The profile for the establishment on Accès Libre should list a relevant website and/or phone number.

What is the accessibility situation overall in France?

In France, many locations open to the public are not accessible to people with disabilities, despite the fact that the French legal framework dictated that operators of all public buildings must create and submit work plans for how to become accessible to people with disabilities – of all kinds – by 2015.

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As of 2023, less than half of establishments open to the public in France's capital city had even begun to take steps in order to become accessible to people with disabilities.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: How accessible is Paris for people with disabilities?

On top of that, several locations that have declared themselves to be 'fully accessible' are in reality not adapted to all types of disabilities. In 2018, the rights group APF France Handicap conducted a survey focusing specifically on the Pays-de-la-Loire region in western central France.

It found that of the 442 establishments who declared themselves fully accessible to people with disabilities, almost three quarters were in reality “hardly accessible” and 12 percent were “not at all accessible”.

In July 2023, Le Parisien reported that the French government had set aside a budget of €300 million to help establishments wanting to do works to make themselves more accessible.

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