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Protests for disabled rights in France earlier than Paris Olympics

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PARIS — Indignant about many years of unmet guarantees, folks with disabilities protested Wednesday in France by displaying how troublesome and irritating it’s for them to journey alone by prepare into Paris, delivering a stinging rebuke of presidency inertia earlier than the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Video games.

Within the city of Melun on the outskirts of the French capital, Babou Sene, 31, needed to get out of the wheelchair he makes use of and shuffle with assist down after which up two flights of stairs to catch the 11:15 suburban prepare to Paris’ Gare de Lyon, which connects to the one absolutely accessible Metro line sooner or later Olympic host metropolis.

Different folks with disabilities needed to keep behind, persevering with the protest with placards denouncing restricted entry to public companies. Their electric-powered wheelchairs had been too cumbersome to be carried to the Paris-bound prepare platform. Helpers carried Sene’s smaller hand-pushed chair and assisted him on the steps and navigating the hole between platform and prepare.

“It is irritating, actually irritating, not with the ability to get round,” Sene stated. “The emotions are of anger, frustration, revolt and resignation. As a result of actually, regardless of the fights undertaken, the impression now we have is that we’re not listened to, regardless of all of our efforts.”

Sene works for APF France Handicap, which lobbies for disabled rights and arranged the protest. It was among the many teams invited to a nationwide convention on disabilities that French President Emmanuel Macron was internet hosting later Wednesday.

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Amid frustration over sluggish progress on disabled rights, one other group, Collectif Handicaps, an umbrella affiliation of greater than 50 marketing campaign teams, stated it might boycott the convention. Collectif Handicaps had requested for a possibility to talk in entrance of Macron and stated it was refused.

The group stated it worries that contemporary pledges of improved accessibility Macron was anticipated to make would fall quick of what’s wanted.

Simply attending to the convention on the presidential Elysee Palace is an ordeal for most of the folks the occasion is concentrated on due to very restricted accessibility on the Paris Metro and frequent frustrations for folks with disabilities on the French capital’s supposedly absolutely accessible buses.

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 in assembly the wants of adults and youngsters with disabilities.

The looming deadlines of the July 26-Aug. 11, 2024, Olympics and Aug. 28-Sept. 8 Paralympics additionally danger highlighting how inaccessible France is, in distinction to advances in different wealthy international locations.

For the Paris Video games, France wants “to press on the accelerator” as a result of “a catastrophic situation is within the offing if we don’t,” APF France Handicap President Pascale Ribes stated, citing considerations about accessibility, lodge lodging and different points for spectators with disabilities.

Olympic organizers say the host metropolis will “present the very best circumstances for para-athletes and guests with disabilities.” They are saying they’re aiming for “an obstacle-free expertise for all,” with 100% of venues to be accessible for folks with disabilities and all volunteers to be skilled in serving their wants in order to “keep away from customers feeling that they’ve any form of incapacity.”

However different Olympic cities have performed higher on bettering accessibility of their subways. In Tokyo, greater than 90% of the 758 subway and rail stations had been already wheelchair-accessible when it hosted the Olympics in 2021.

On the Melun railway station, protesters’ placards denounced difficulties navigating colleges, housing, transport and different companies. Sene’s placard learn: “When buildings aren’t accessible, we will not entry our rights.”

A sports activities fan, Sene has signed up as a candidate to work as an Olympic volunteer. He stated he hopes the Paris Video games “will function a take-off ramp for accessibility.”

Protesters stated enchancment works on the Melun station have been repeatedly pushed again and that difficulties there for folks with mobility challenges are mirrored throughout the Paris area.

“There is a era that is seen the trains go previous and hasn’t been in a position to get on board,” stated Pascal Aubert, of APF France Handicap.

Salima Yenbou, a French member of the European Parliament, representing Macron’s centrist social gathering, rode the prepare with Sene to Paris and instructed him that his battle to get on board is “like home arrest.”

“It is unacceptable,” she stated.


AP journalist Nicolas Garriga contributed in Melun, France.

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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