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Paris is the world’s number one tourist destination, and with good reason. Not only is it the city of love, it boasts fantastic food, amazing museums, beautiful architecture and so much more. Disabled visitors needn’t worry about missing out on experiencing all that Paris has to offer either, as the city strives hard to be accessible for all.
Let’s take a look at how accessible it really is.
Improvements are constantly being made to Paris’s various transport systems, and there are many ways disabled travellers can get around with relative ease. All trains can be boarded with the use of a ramp, and many stations have facilities to help disabled people, including lifts, tactile bands and strips, sound guidance system and adapted toilets.
If you’re planning to drive to and around Paris by car, you’ll be pleased to know travelling in an adapted class 2 vehicle (van type) entitles you to lower class 1 (saloon type) rates at motorway tolls. To pay these discounted rates, you’ll need to drive up to a booth that has a member of staff. If the toll is automated, use the intercom system to explain you’re entitled to a discount.
All 63 lines of the Paris bus network are accessible to disabled visitors, as each vehicle is equipped with a ramp. Around 80 per cent of bus stops have raised pavements too. Those with visual impairments are catered for also, as every bus announces what the next stop will be. However, not all of them have a visual announcement system for deaf or hard of hearing passengers.
Paris’s three tramways are accessible to all tourists, no matter their disability. Things get a bit more complicated when it comes to the metro, though. Blind or visually impaired travellers will want to travel on lines 1 and 14, if they can, as both of them have platform screens at stations and carriages which announce the next stop. On lines 1, 2, 3 and 13, the next station is shown visually. Only line 14 is completely accessible to wheelchair users.
Another option is to take a taxi – Taxis G7 has more than 120 vehicles specially adapted to wheelchair users and the drivers are trained to help disabled and visually impaired tourists.
Getting around on foot
Paris is mostly flat, so travellers with mobility or respiratory problems shouldn’t have any issues walking around. The pavements are also smooth – very few have cobblestones. The only problem is that many of the attractions are far apart, so you’ll need to plan your days carefully if you want to avoid getting on too many metros/buses/taxis.
It’s worth noting that there are around 400 accessible public toilets around the city of Paris and they are free to use. They contain information in both Braille and audio recordings, so travellers that have a sight or hearing impairment will find them useful too.
Musée du Louvre
One of the world’s largest museums, you cannot visit Paris without going to The Louvre. Fortunately, it is wheelchair accessible and chairs can even be loaned from the museum, should you need one. Entry is free for disabled people and their accompanying companion. Just remember to bring written proof of your condition with you.
Many of the activities and workshops at the museum are adapted to suit a number of different conditions. Those with a sight impairment can benefit from touch tours, information written in Braille, descriptive tours and audio guides.
The Eiffel Tower is another iconic landmark that cannot be missed. Don’t worry about having to climb all those stairs to reach the top – there is a lift available, with wheelchair users being able to go up to the first and second floors. Sadly, if you’re in a wheelchair you cannot travel to the very top for safety reasons. However you can still get excellent views from the accessible floors. It’s recommended that you take the lift if you have a vascular or lung condition, as those stairs are bound to put a strain on your body!
Discounted rates are available for disabled visitors and one companion and there are accessible toilets within the tower too.
No matter what sort of disability, impairment or long-term condition you have, Paris is a great place to visit and is very accessible. Its metro needs some work, but changes are bound to be implemented over time.
Providing you plan well enough in advance, diabetes should not need to impact your well-earned break in the sun (or on the piste, or in the mountains or exploring cities, etc.). Living with this condition on a daily basis, you know that preparation is vital. Going away is no different; it simply requires a few extra considerations.
We’ve put together a handy list to make sure that your diabetes is under control on your family holiday.
Declare your condition
To be able to take your medication on the flight, you must have a doctor’s letter which confirms you have diabetes and explains you need to carry insulin, syringes, needles, tablets, etc. Despite the restrictions on carrying sharp objects and liquids that have been enforced over recent years, with this official letter, you should have no problems.
Make your travel insurer aware of your condition so that should you require assistance related to your diabetes, you will be covered. Better still, insure with a company who has a comprehensive understanding of diabetes and can ensure your policy is just right.
Obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
The chances are that you already have one of these cards, which guarantees discounted or free medical treatment in European Economic Areas. All holiday-makers are advised to obtain an EHIC in addition to travel insurance, as it also covers pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes. More information about the card is available on the NHS Choices website.
Double up on your supplies
It’s always better to have more rather than less, isn’t it? Whether you need them or not, take twice the amount of your medicines away with you – simply to cover all eventualities. It’s also a good idea to identify the pharmacies/ hospitals in or nearest to your resort where you may be able to pick up additional supplies, just to put your mind at rest.
Speak with your airline before flying
As mentioned above, aviation rules allow diabetes sufferers to carry medication and equipment in their hand luggage if accompanied with a doctor’s letter. That said, the Civil Aviation Authority still recommends that you call your airline in advance to discuss your requirements and understand what restrictions may be in place. This is especially important if you use a pump of continuous glucose monitor.
Know how your medication will be stored in-flight
Once on board, the cabin crew may ask to store your medication during the flight – this is standard procedure and nothing to worry about, but it pays to find out in advance. If you do have to put some insulin in your stowed luggage, pack it in airtight containers, split between several cases in case of damage or loss. Check your medication post-flight; if the insulin has formed any crystals, it should be discarded. Once you’ve reached your accommodation, keep your insulin in the fridge and out of the heat.
Know your food options
Many airlines these days give you the option of a diabetic menu, though experts claim diabetic people don’t necessarily need special meals. You know what you can and can’t eat, but if in doubt, discuss your concerns with the airline in advance.
For shorter flights where meals aren’t provided and the menu is rather limited, you’ll need to take your own snacks, probably bought from shops at the airport. You may be able to find some diabetic/ ‘safe’ foods in Boots, or can find something to take away that won’t affect your blood glucose levels. Regardless of flight times and destination, take some snacks on board in case your flight is delayed or to manage any hypoglycaemic attacks – glucose tablets, Lucozade and slow-release carbohydrates (muesli bars, biscuits, etc) are a must.
While on holiday, just be sensible – as you would at home.
Think about your regime
Travelling to a far-flung destination can make things confusing – crossing time zones can knock out your usual regime and make it difficult to know when to take your medicine. Many people do this frequently and don’t come to much harm.
Diabetes UK says that time changes of four hours or fewer don’t warrant any major changes to your usual routine. If travelling further, then the organisation advises the following:
“When travelling east to west, the day is lengthened and some clinics will advise you to take an extra meal and to cover it with extra insulin. When travelling west to east, the day is shortened and the amount of insulin and carbohydrate may need to be reduced.”
More information is available on the website.
Take care of yourself
Holidays are a time when we tend to ‘let go’ and perhaps indulge in things that we wouldn’t when back home. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy a few holiday excesses either, provided you take care of yourself. Check your blood glucose levels frequently, mind those cocktails and just look after yourself.
That way, you and the entire family can enjoy that hard-earned and much-anticipated trip abroad without any worry.