Services and facilities
Although the situation varies by region, the country is making efforts to welcome people with disabilities.
- More and more towns cater to people with reduced mobility: wide pavements, accessible public transport, administration desks at the right height for wheelchair users, lifts, etc. There are also more and more facilities for sight-impaired and blind people, such as alarms indicating the colour of traffic lights or raised paths to guide them.
- Public transport companies such as RATP in Île-de-France or SNCF offer dedicated services for people with reduced mobility. If you give advance notice of your arrival, you can receive assistance from staff in boarding or alighting from trains. SNCF can also take charge of your luggage from your point of departure to your destination. There are dedicated areas for wheelchairs on high-speed TGV trains and main line Grandes Lignes trains. A small wheelchair called a transfer chair is provided on TGVs upon request to the chief conductor or the ticket inspector. The train is often considered the easiest form of public transport for people with disabilities to travel in France.
- Most airlines also offer special services. It is important to notify them of your disability when booking tickets. Most of the time the wheelchairs travel in the hold, but people with reduced mobility are the first to board the plane for maximum comfort.
- City trips are the easiest when suffering from any kind of disability. Large conurbations and medium-sized cities in France have the most facilities and services.
Before setting off
To travel more comfortably, it's good to take a few precautions before setting off.
- Find information on your chosen accommodation regarding facilities for disabled people. Feel free to ask for photos. If the establishment is suitable, make a firm booking in advance and obtain confirmation.
- Also find information on museums or other tourist sites or leisure establishments you want to visit during your trip.
- Some travel agencies specialise in organising holidays for people with reduced mobility. They manage group transport, find accessible hotels, and if necessary provide sign language interpreters. It can be an alternative to individual research if the latter turns out to be too complicated.
- If you can, it's best to take someone with you, ideally an able-bodied friend or relative, to make daily life easier during your holiday. Alternatively, some associations offer carers for holidays in France.
- There are many disability associations in France that have branches in several cities. Feel free to contact them before you set off so you can obtain as much information as possible about your holiday destination: accessibility, discounts, services on offer, etc. This way you can set off with peace of mind.
- If you're travelling by plane, you can have your doctor fill in the INCAD form for the flight crew. This lets you keep the airline informed of your needs and enables you to be prepared in the event of any problems during the flight. Ask your health insurance provider for more information.
- If you're receiving medical treatment, remember to bring enough medication for the whole trip, as well as prescriptions. If you're coming from a foreign country, remember to have them translated into French or at least into English, to help when going through customs or receiving treatment at a chemist or hospital. Also remember to note the address and phone number of the hospital in the area where you're going on holiday.
- It is important to take out repatriation insurance covering healthcare costs in the country. Ensure that you're covered for any disabilities, and check the terms of the cover.
To avoid being caught off guard during your holidays, it's a good idea to take a few precautions that might save the day.
- Remember to bring all the technical equipment you need, for example in case your wheelchair breaks down or has a flat tyre. Patches, a pump, a few tools… It's not always easy to find a spare part quickly on site, and bringing your own can help you avoid being immobilised for several days.
- If you have a problem and are foreign, don't hesitate to contact the embassy or consulate for your country of origin in France. They can give information about steps to take and help you solve problems. Remember to find their addresses or phone numbers before going on holiday.
- Sometimes it can be hard to find accessible or adapted toilets for people with reduced mobility, especially in the countryside or in isolated places. Remember to bring a urine bottle as a last resort. It can also be helpful to carry a business card for the hospital where you wish to be repatriated in the event of any problems, as it will make things easier for the emergency services and insurance company.