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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

France beneath stress over disabled rights as Olympics loom

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PARIS — Pascale Ribes and different campaigners for the rights of individuals with disabilities in France have an invitation to fulfill the French president Wednesday. However as a result of she makes use of a wheelchair, Ribes will not danger touring by public transport to the convention on the presidential Elysee Palace.

The closest wheelchair-accessible Metro line is a few kilometer (half a mile) away and public buses within the French capital — host of the following Olympic Video games — could be a time-gobbling ordeal for individuals with restricted mobility, Ribes says.

So the president of the lobbying group APF France Handicap will as a substitute experience by taxi in hopes of delivering her message to President Emmanuel Macron that France is lagging in its obligations to make sure equal rights for individuals with disabilities.

Ribes warns that as a substitute of showcasing France, the 2024 Olympics danger highlighting the nation’s failings until there’s fast motion to make the Paris Video games and the host nation extra aware of the wants and rights of individuals with disabilities.

“We actually need the video games to be successful,” Ribes stated in an Related Press interview, however France wants “to press on the accelerator” as a result of “a catastrophic situation is within the offing if we do not.”

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Ribes is not the one vital voice as Macron hosts France’s first nationwide convention on disabilities because the COVID-19 pandemic. This month, an arm of the Council of Europe, the continent’s foremost human rights physique, discovered France in violation of a European treaty on social and financial rights, citing a number of failings towards adults and youngsters with disabilities.

The ruling from the COE’s European Committee of Social Rights is not legally binding. However campaigners in France hope its rebuke will give them higher leverage to push Macron for treatments.

The looming deadlines of the July 26 to Aug. 11, 2024, Olympics and Aug. 28 to Sept. 8 Paralympics are additionally upping the stress.

Paris Olympic organizers say all company on the video games will probably be handled to an “ inclusive, trailblazing and distinctive expertise ” and that the host metropolis will “present the very best circumstances for para-athletes and guests with disabilities.” Organizers say they’re aiming for “an obstacle-free expertise for all,” with 100% of venues to be accessible for individuals with disabilities and all video games volunteers to be skilled in catering for his or her wants, in order to “keep away from customers feeling that they’ve any type of incapacity.”

In March, the federal government’s ministers for the Olympics, transport and other people with disabilities, in addition to chief Paris Video games organizer Tony Estanguet, collectively wrote to Ribes to reply to her group’s considerations that, with out pressing motion, 1000’s of spectators with disabilities will not be capable to attain competitors venues and will not discover accessible lodging.

They pledged that 150 to 200 shuttle buses will probably be laid on for individuals who use wheelchairs and stated they’re aiming for a five-fold improve in Paris’ flotilla of accessible taxis, from 200 to 1,000, by games-time.

Ribes acknowledges that authorities authorities and video games organizers are quickening the tempo of preparations and says “the need is there” to deal with accessibility issues highlighted by her group and others.

“We’ll proceed to be extraordinarily vigilant,” she says.

However Ribes and others say alternatives have additionally been misplaced. A significant criticism is that 123 years after the inauguration of the Paris Metro’s first line — for the 1900 Olympics and World’s Truthful — a lot of the capital’s historic subway system remains to be inaccessible to individuals who use wheelchairs. On the community of 309 stations, just one line with 13 stations is absolutely accessible.

“It’s shameful,” says Ribes. “The picture of France is at stake. The impression we’ve is one among nice inertia.”

Different Olympic cities have achieved higher. In Tokyo, greater than 90% of the 758 subway and rail stations have been already wheelchair-accessible when it hosted the Olympics in 2021. In 2012 host London, round a 3rd of Tube stations have step-free entry, that means they’re outfitted with lifts, ramps and stage surfaces so individuals with disabilities don’t have to make use of stairs or escalators, the London Underground says. In Barcelona, Olympic host in 1992, transport operator TMB says solely 12 of its 165 metro stations stay unaccessible.

Paris public transport operator RATP says that making the Metro accessible “is complicated due to quite a few technical obstacles” within the capital the place area above and under floor is at a premium. It says 32 stations will probably be accessible by games-time and that different transport choices are plentiful. Your entire Paris bus community and 86% of bus strains serving the suburbs are accessible, as are all eight of town’s tram strains and two of its main crosstown rail strains, the RATP says.

However transport deficiencies in France have been among the many issues that the COE’s social rights committee seized upon in its ruling made public on April 17. The 15-member committee that screens whether or not international locations are complying with their commitments to the European Social Constitution unanimously stated that shortages in assist companies and lack of accessibility to buildings and public transport for individuals with disabilities trigger “many households to stay in precarious circumstances.”

Ribes says that taking a bus in Paris is troublesome together with her wheelchair as a result of “typically it’s a must to look ahead to the second or the third bus to have the ability to get on board, as a result of the buses are packed.” And braving the Paris Metro, she says, is “not possible for me” due to the scarcity of absolutely accessible strains.

“It is too harmful,” she says. “It is by no means seen without any consideration.”


AP journalist Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed. Extra AP protection of the Paris Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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