France: Disability and Exchange Profile
Disability resources and exchange opportunities in France.
Get a feel for the cultural heart of Europe - gourmet food, famous art, rich culture and architectural wonders as you find an exchange program that fits your needs and the disability resources to make the experience successful.
Read stories, blogs and interviews with exchange alumni with disabilities who volunteered, studied, taught, or researched in France! Are you a person with a disability who has been to France on exchange? Send us your story!
On this Page:
- Disability Legislation
- General Accessibility
- Accessible Travel and Tourism Links
- Disability Organizations and Services
- Bringing Medication and/or Service Animals
In 1973, France passed anti-discrimination laws guaranteeing the rights of people in all sectors of society including employment, education, and public access. These laws make discrimination on the basis of disability a criminal offense. In addition, housing, new buildings and places of public accommodation (i.e. schools, universities and government offices) have been required to be accessible to people with disabilities by law since 1991.
National legislation passed in France in 2005 requires that all modes of public transit be accessible to disabled persons by February 2015. Bus systems in Paris, Rouen, Nantes, Lorient, Douai, and Grenoble all have a spectrum of access features.
Further reading: Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund - Laws Index by Country
Much like the United States, France has a long way to go in terms of accessibility and disability accommodation. While changes and upgrades for accessibility are common, so are stairs, narrow doors, and cobblestones. Larger cities, like Paris, tend to have more features for access. Many guide books and tourism offices have resources regarding accessible lodging, tourist attractions, and restaurants. When traveling to France, or any country, do your research, be prepared for surprises and bring an open mind!
Continue reading France and England: Gaining World Experience through University Study Abroad by Vanessa Jones, a wheelchair user who studied in Grenoble.
France's overseas departments are subject to the same disability legislation as mainland France, but realistically, the levels of accessibility vary. The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs manages pages with accessibility information for:
Montpellier Site Access Summary - University of Minnesota's Learning Abroad Center provides site access summaries of its overseas programs. Read about site access at the Universite Paul Valery in Montpellier, and gain additional information about French attitudes towards disability.
Why Travel to France? - Search posts in this English-language blog by category, including those related to accessibility and disability.
Tourisme et Handicaps (French) - Describes a pilot project to make French tourism inclusive of people with disabilities.
Mobile en Ville (French) - An access guide to Paris for wheelchair users.
Accessible Lodging and Restaurants in Paris (French) - A directory of hotels, hostels, cafes and restaurants that includes specialized information for patrons with disabilities.
France Guide to Accessible Tourism (French) - Adaptive leisure and recreation.
For more general resources on accessible travel, disability and exchange, please visit the NCDE Links page.
Disability Organizations and Services
Need an ASL interpreter in France? Not sure who to ask about learning disability resources? Contacting a disability organization in France can be a great way to begin planning for accommodations. Local organizations have the inside information regarding general accessibility, laws, and in-country contacts that can enhance your experience abroad. For a comprehensive list of disability organizations working in France, search MIUSA's Disability Organizations database.
Disability Organization Spotlight: Overseas Interpreting offers ASL interpreters in France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom for deaf people traveling outside of their home countries.
Bringing Medication and/or Service Animals
Continue reading Bon Voyage! Life Lessons from My Travels in France by Allegra Johnson, who has rheumatoid arthritis, and studied abroad.
When traveling, it is important to prepare for everything and stay updated on travel policies regarding medication, as they often change. Medical drugs for personal use may be imported in a sufficient quantity for 3 months of treatment without prescription or more than 3 months of treatment with a prescription, provided they are carried in your luggage.
The preparations required to bring a service dog to France may take up to four months in order to obtain the necessary vaccination certificates and proper identification.
Embassy of France in the United States - Information for individuals on bringing dogs, cats and ferrets into France
Getting around in France takes patience and organization, but the availability of public transportation in the cities makes navigating easier. Public transportation including taxis, buses, metros, and trains are extremely popular, although the accessibility of these systems can vary greatly from one city to the next. While the law requires public services to be accessible (see "Disability Legislation" section above), what that means will vary. It is not uncommon for accessibility to be limited to main routes. Check with the Transportation Authority in the city to which you are going for specific information. Paris-specific transportation information and resources can be found below.
International Transport Forum - General information about initiatives to improve transport accessibility for people in Europe, visit the International Transport Forum website.
Traveling by Taxi or Advance Pickup Service
Adapted Transportation Providers in France (French) - A directory of businesses serving Ile-de-France and other regions of the country.
Infomobi (French) - Infomobi is an information service for the transportation of people with disabilities in Ile-de-France. The site lists transportation information by disability and includes accessible taxi services and maps of accessible buses and other services.
GIHP: Group for the Inclusion of the Physically Handicapped (French) - Call a regional GIHP office to make a reservation for adapted transportation services.
Taxis G7 Horizon - G7 Horizon is a Paris taxi service specifically for people with reduced mobility. The American-style adapted minivans are equipped with access ramps and can be hired for pick-up and drop-off to Orly or Roissy/Charles de Gaulle airports.
Traveling by Train
Trains are a reliable, clean, and accessible way to get around France. With high-speed trains connecting all over the country, they are a great way to explore each region. The best advice is to call in advance to request services such as wheelchair lifts, wheelchair seats, auditory direction and signs for blind people, or written and visual indicators for those who are hard of hearing or Deaf.
RailEurope - Trains and many train stations offer amenities to travelers with disabilities. Passengers are requested to specify whether assistance is needed with a wheelchair, boarding, etc.
Voyages-SNCF (French) - Page for train travelers with disabilities. The site lists disability-specific services and accommodations for train passengers.
Traveling by Subway or Bus in Paris
Continue reading My Adventures on the Paris Metro to see the Eiffel Tower by Emma Verrill, who uses a wheelchair and studied in France.
RATP Group, a public transport operator based in Paris, France, has introduced equipment and services to make its stations and vehicles more accessible to people with disabilities, and claims to strive beyond the legal obligations. Visit its page "Accessibility for All" to learn about current services and future plans for improved accessibility. RATP also produced a complete guide to accessible public transportation in Paris (in French).
There are two underground transport systems in Paris, the RER and the Metro, serving suburbs and the city center respectively. The Metro is one of the oldest subway systems in Europe and as a result, has limited access.
Accessible RER Stations - Lists RER stations equipped with elevators and expanded doorways.
Because of the limited access to the underground systems, RATP Group had to improve the accessibility of Paris' 60 bus lines. According to RATP, a bus line is considered to be accessible when at least 70% of its stops are accessible.
Access to education for all has long been a French value. In 1755 Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee of Paris founded the first free school for deaf people. In 1829 Louis Braille, a student at the Paris School for the Blind, succeed in modifying a military system of communicating by raised dots to the method of reading for blind people known now as Braille.
French children with disabilities have been included in public classrooms since 1976, and in 2005 France passed a law extending the educational rights of people with disabilities.
Higher Education and Disability Resources
French universities often possess a network of specialized support staff who welcome French or international students with disabilities.
Support for Students with Disabilities in France - A higher education accessibility guide for France
Directory of Higher Education Institutions in France - Links to each institution provide general and disability-related information, such as whether the institution provides support for students with learning disabilities, counseling services, and adapted housing.
The Academic Network of European Disability (ANED) France - Created in 2007, ANED works to create a network and connect existing disability research facilities and organizations to “support policy development” for disabilities in the European Union.
For information about opportunities to study in France, please see "Exchange Programs - Study and Research," below.
How do you want to spend your time in France? Consult the following pages and links to find opportunities for study, research, volunteering, language learning, professional development, and more!
Exchange Opportunity Spotlight: The Teaching Assistant Program in France offers students the opportunity to teach English to French students of all ages in public schools across all regions of metropolitan France and in the overseas departments of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Reunion! Proficiency in French is required. Read a blog post by a young woman who uses a wheelchair and who is teaching in France through the Teaching Assistant Program.
Do you want to participate in an exchange that will enhance your knowledge of disability in France? Take a course on disability, learn French Sign Language, or volunteer with a disability organization. More Deaf and Disability-Related Exchanges can be found on our tipsheet.
Continue reading the Featured Person Profile of Steven Mayers, who is Deaf and studied foreign sign languages in Europe.
CIEE International Faculty Development Seminar on “Disability in Situation: French Notions of Disability and Difference” - This seminar, to take place in Paris, France in 2012, will examine French disability policies, with a focus on the educational domain. It will bring together French scholars, university access professionals, and disability rights activists to share their scholarship and experience in a collaborative setting with U.S. faculty, administrators, and activists.
Cultural Approaches to Disability course through CIEE's Summer Contemporary French Studies - The intensive summer class on Cultural Approaches to Disability offers undergraduates the possibility to explore questions of disability and disability studies in Paris, France. The class is held in an accessible classroom at the University of Paris Diderot. Students may go through their university study-abroad office or contact the professor, Hannah Taieb.
French Sign Language and Deaf Culture course through CIEE's Summer Contemporary French Studies - This is an exciting opportunity for Deaf and hearing students with an intermediate level of ASL to study French Sign Language and Deaf Culture with CIEE in Paris, France. Contact program director, Hannah Taieb.
Although efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, MIUSA/NCDE cannot be held liable for inaccuracy, misinterpretation or complaints arising from these listings. Mention of an organization, company, service or resource should not be construed as an endorsement by MIUSA/NCDE. Please advise NCDE of any inaccuracies you may find.