Paris Promised the Olympics Would Be Accessible. The Clock Is Ticking.

During a trip to Paris last November, Samantha Renke just couldn’t seem to find a taxi that could accommodate her motorized wheelchair.

“Every time I logged on, it just kept saying, ‘Unavailable, unavailable, unavailable,’” Ms. Renke said, recounting her struggle to book an accessible cab using the G7 taxi app. Eating out was also a problem for Ms. Renke,a 38-year-old British actress and disability campaigner who has a genetic condition commonly known as brittle bones:Too few restaurants had step-free access.

As Paris prepares to welcome around 15 million visitors — an estimated 350,000 with disabilities — for the Olympics and Paralympics, the city is still working to fulfill its promise to make itself “universally accessible” before the opening ceremony, on July 26.

“Paris will be accessible. We are rising to the challenge,” said Fadila Khattabi,the minister delegate for disabled people.

Paris put inclusivity and accessibility at the center of its bid to host the Summer Games, and the city has made a great deal of headway. For example, the newly built 128-acre Olympic and Paralympic Village, hailed by the organizers and advocacy groups as a shining example of universal design, offers accessible buildings, multisensory signage and zones for assistance dogs. The city plans to have 1,000 wheelchair-accessible taxis by the time the Games open (it had just 250 in 2022), and Uber will increase its fleet of accessible vehicles to 170, from 40.

Despite this progress, advocacy groups like APF France Handicap are concerned that the city remains unprepared for visitors with disabilities. For example, said Pascale Ribes, the group’s president, train and airline companies need to be notified in advance to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs.

Back to top button