First, the bad news: Paris doesn't exactly have a stellar record where accessibility is concerned. Wheelchair-intolerant cobblestone streets; out-of-order or nonexistent metro elevators; cafe bathrooms in basements accessible only by narrow spiral staircases-- you name it. For visitors with disabilities or limited mobility, Paris can seem like an obstacle course.
The good news? A series of recent measures has made it considerably easier for visitors with limited mobility or disabilities to get around. There's still a long way to go, but the city is continually improving its track record.
Metro and RER:
- On the whole, the Paris metro offers poor accessibility to limited-mobility and disabled travelers. For the time being, only Metro line 14 is fully-equipped with elevators and ramps, with selected stations on other lines providing adequate accessibility. Roughly two-thirds of Paris metro stations have escalators.
- Suburban express trains (RER) are generally much better-equipped for passengers with limited mobility. All four RER lines are accessible to passengers with wheelchairs from most major stations.
Visit this page to download a map (PDF format) of accessible Metro and RER stations.
- Travelers with wheelchairs should keep in mind that only manual wheelchairs can be used comfortably in the metro and RER at the current time, due to the gap between the platform and the train.
- For passengers with sight disabilities, the Metro and RER are insufficiently accessible. Some stations are equipped with raised warning studs along the edge of train platforms. In addition, Metro line 14 and selected trains on line 3 have automatic vocal announcements indicating each stop. Efforts are underway to include vocal announcements on all lines.
- For hearing-impaired passengers, at least one ticketing and information booth in every Metro or RER station is equipped with magnetic inductive loops permitting passengers with hearing-aids to communicate easily with Metro and RER staff. Passengers simply place their hearing aid on the "T" telephone icon at the booth.
Buses and Tramways:
Thanks to major efforts to create or renew existing surface transport networks, Paris buses and tramways are far more accessible to passengers with limited mobility and sight or hearing disabilities.
According to the RATP (Metro) website, the city of Paris has purchased 400 new, fully-accessible buses every year since 1998. As a result, a majority of Paris buses are equipped with ramps, lowering devices, special seats for limited-mobility passengers, and a vocal announcement system. Line 38, which runs North to South through the center of the city, also has screens located throughout the bus that indicate current location, next stops, and transfer points.
Paris' two tramway lines, T1 and T2, are both fully wheelchair-accessible.
ADP (Airports of Paris) offers a straightforward guide to limited-mobility and disabled passengers on how to get to and from Paris airports. You can download PDF files from the site giving detailed information on services available to Paris airport passengers with special needs.
Sights, Attractions, and Lodging: The "Tourisme et Handicape" LabelIn 2001, the French Ministry of Tourism defined an official set of criteria for accessibility, the "Tourism and Handicap" label. Hundreds of Paris establishments have been accredited with the label, making it easy for passengers with particular needs to quickly identify accessible Paris attractions, restaurants, or hotels.
Click here for a list of accessible Paris sights, attractions, and accommodation