Underground or not to underground?

The last few weeks I have been using the Paris metro and London underground. And each time I go down there I am surprised at how little accommodation there is for people with disabilities – and luggage-loaded travelers. Yes, there are some stops that are catered for wheel-chairs, but the majority of trains and entrances/exits are not accessible. I had a look at a guideline for wheel-chair users in London, and basically it tells you to contact staff for help. Hmm, how many people feel that easy to do..??

There is a site for Paris’ tourists that covers the subject “is Paris accessible for people with disabilities?”And the answer is; “First, the bad news: Paris doesn’t exactly have a stellar record where accessibility is concerned. Wheelchair-intolerant cobblestone streets; out-of-order or nonexistent metro elevators; cafe bathrooms in basements accessible only by narrow spiral staircases– you name it. For visitors with disabilities or limited mobility, Paris can seem like an obstacle course.” There is some good news, though, the RER train (above ground) does have accessibility for wheel-chair users in almost all stations.

One could say, “take a taxi!” Well, it isn’t the best option, I’d say. Paris and London are cities that are overcrowded with cars, taking a taxi may take you longer than using the underground and it is violently more expensive. Not very fair to a group that may have less income due to their disability (generally speaking many struggle with getting employment, which is another story).  There are buses, of course, but they get stuck in traffic too – and in Paris I know that they don’t have the same stops as the underground.

On that note, I found an entertaining article on BBC about someone trying out the underground after having heard that things had improved: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/features/freedom-pass-to-hell-.shtml

Well, you may guess the result..

I am sure that building more lifts in the underground/metro would mean gigantic costs for any given city. But with an aging population I believe the need will only increase. When I think of it, there is a large group of people already who need lifts and escalators; people with a lot of luggage/groceries, people with small children, people who have knee pains, people who have back pains, people with a heart condition, people who don’t see well or not at all. Should be good enough reasons to work on finding the funding for improved public transport! Which hopefully would lead to less cars and better air..

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