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A Night of Accessibility


Whether your goal is to have the romantic time of your life, or to gorge yourself silly, or just to wander and discover tiny streets and massive monuments, most of the world agrees (tourists vote with their feet and currency) that Paris is THE destination. While the early kings named Henri gave that idea some traction in the 1500s, Louis XIV started showcasing the place as a world metropolis in 1670 when he ordered the defensive city walls torn down and the Grands Boulevards built on top of them.

More walls went up later, for tax collection purposes, but the impetus to create the Paris of today really took off under Napoleon III, Napoleon I’s nephew, who came back from exile in 1848 with a grand plan in his back pocket, and a willing Prefect of the Seine, Georges Haussmann, to hammer out the details. It’s their Paris of boulevards and monuments that people think of as modern Paris.


But this isn’t a history lesson, it’s merely preface to say that Paris is an OLD city.

And old cities are tough to retrofit for modern needs. Like those of the disabled. Those tiny, romantic sidewalk cafés with tables barely bigger than the average American's girth, narrow walkways between tables, and Turkish toilets in the underground caves, are useless to people in wheelchairs. And cobblestone streets that can barely be navigated in heels probably PUT people on crutches.


Even the Métro, one of the best in the world, first opened in 1900, long before the advent of disabled access, though the old wooden trains used to have seats set aside for the wounded of both wars. But how, one wonders, did they get into the station? Only the newer stations and lines have anything close to adequate elevators, escalators, and train access.

Paris Play had the privilege Saturday of working with a group of photographers from the Paris Photography Meetup Group to document the yearly gathering at Place Stalingrad of Jaccede.com, a group that works to spotlight and lobby for disabled people to gain the same kind of access that most of us take for granted.


Jaccede isn’t about demonstrations or agitation; it creates a survey of the town and offers an app that tells disabled Parisians (and visitors) which shops, Métro stations, restaurants, streets, etc., are most easily used by people with various kinds of disabilities, from the wheelchair-bound to the blind.


The night is also a social gathering of the disabled in large numbers, for dancing, playing, partying, hanging out with volunteer jugglers, tightrope walkers and clowns, and serves as a gentle reminder to the able-bodied who cut through the Place Stalingrad to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the beautiful Basin Villette that Paris is everybody’s city.


Some memories of that night below, and a celebration of some of the citizens that we might sometimes overlook. 







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Reader Comments (6)

In college I was very fond of a beautiful classmate whose mother had taken thalidomide while pregnant. My friend had little fin-shaped "hands" just below the elbows. She was a cheerful person and never acknowledged that she was "different." She was a strong runner and was on the track team. She was part of the gang and we all loved her. I can only hope that the world beyond that protective bubble of college was kind to her.

Deformities and aberrations of the human form come in all shapes and sizes, seen and unseen. One person's difference can be another's object of beauty. And before any of us chooses to denigrate an "other," each should check in with his own abnormality first. Trust me, it's there.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 21:58 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Balcomb

There you go, Stuart. That's exactly it. I've never met anyone who didn't have some deformity, within or without.

One of my two college roommates, a young Swedish woman, had a withered arm. Didn't stop her from doing anything.

Thanks for your compassionate awareness.


Kaaren and Richard

Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 22:10 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

I never fall in love with the human race more than I do when we're tender. And in particular when we're tender with those who have needs that are different than ours. It so goes against the idea of nature being brutal and favoring the strong. No, we're complex and multifaceted: the end-all be-all of our nature can't fit on a bumper sticker.

Thank you, K and R, for once again bringing that to the fore with words and pictures.

Thursday, June 18, 2015 at 20:41 | Unregistered CommenterAnna


Thank you for such an eloquent comment.

I just posted on Facebook Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's wonderful essay on Rachel Dolezal. Now THAT was the most compassionate response to the drama I'd read anywhere.

Big hugs,

Kaaren & Richard

Friday, June 19, 2015 at 5:10 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban


Monday, June 22, 2015 at 5:36 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Lesniak

Thank you, Lisa.


Kaaren & Richard

Monday, June 22, 2015 at 5:52 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

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