Manel Senni, a 25-year-old wheelchair basketball player with spina bifida, faces unpredictable challenges every Monday when commuting to the gym for her training sessions. The difficulties of athletes living in the French capital, where transport accessibility is lacking, are a reminder of the gaps in the public transportation system. The station at Noisy-le-Sec has ramps and elevators, allowing Manel to access the platform with ease, but the 40-cm gap between the train carriage and the platform is a challenge for her. She could wait for station agents to bring a ramp, but instead, she prefers to use her “technique,” waiting for a new train to arrive that is level with the platform, even if it means missing several trains.
A new, accessible train eventually arrives, and she boards with ease. However, the tram service is out of operation, so she has to make the rest of her journey to the Paris Basket Fauteuil gym, where her team trains, in her wheelchair. The journey is easy for her, but it takes her an hour, while someone without a disability would take only 20 minutes. The forthcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris in 2024 are causing concern for people with disabilities. Approximately 350,000 people with disabilities, including between 2,500 and 4,000 wheelchair users per day, are expected to attend the event in the city, highlighting the need for better public transport facilities. The Conseil de Europe recently identified shortcomings in France’s disability rights, including the inaccessibility of public transportation.
The biggest challenge will be coordination among different services, according to Pierre Rabadan, a councilor in charge of the games. APF France Handicap, an advocacy group for people with disabilities, has identified other “tense points,” such as a lack of wheelchair-accessible accommodation, which could create difficulties for many people. President Emmanuel Macron recently discussed public policy on disability with organizations and institutions, and the meeting may have addressed transportation issues as well.
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