Accessible travel in France: improvements in air and rail travel
Travelling to, in and around France is constantly improving for people with disabilities. It is now much easier to have a successful holiday thanks majorly to the efforts made by the transport industry.
Airlines and rail services have been taking numerous measures to further ensure the ease in which people with disabilities can travel. These measures range from trip preparation to the transformation of their infrastructure: in fact, the industry tries to anticipate as many issues as possible!
For those wishing to arrive in France or travel around France by train, the journey has been made much easier thanks to SNCF.
A guide for disabled travellers, which outlines everything you need to know about using the services SNCF offers, is available at all of the stations, SNCF stores and registered travel agencies. The guide already exists in Braille and will shortly be available in larger font as well. You can request to have one sent to you by writing to this address:
Délégation à l’Accessibilité et aux Voyageurs Handicapés
2 rue Traversière
75571 Paris Cedex 12
The SNCF agency offers parking equipped for people who come by car but also an accompaniment service supporting travellers from their home to the station and vice-versa. A call service dedicated to Accès Plus is also available to inform you about each station’s accessibility and facilities. To travel in the best conditions, there are dedicated spaces for wheelchairs which are available in certain trains, including in the IDTGV – the more affordable and modern service.
The equivalent of the Accès Plus SNCF programme is the Saphir service offered by Air France which is entirely dedicated to handicapped passengers.
Put in place and developed in more than 20 countries, it allows for easy contact with the company to answer all relevant questions. Country-specific numbers and e-mail addresses can be found on their website.
Like their international counterparts, French airports have been markedly improved to accommodate – in the best possible conditions – those travelling passengers with disabilities, motor or sensory. Many refurbishments and renovations have taken place, starting with reserved car parking for those wishing to arrive at the airport by car. From there, the assistance service team can be contacted by the available phones to come and collect the passengers who will then be taken care of until boarding their flight. Most airlines have support staff available to help facilitate the boarding and disembarking processes. The Paris airports are act as sign language agents for airlines.
As far as accessibility in and around airports, most international terminals are equipped with ramps for wheelchairs. Generally, they will also have specialised vehicles on hand for when the aerobridges aren’t available. Wheelchairs are also equally available upon request.
It is important to note, however, that the airports in Paris specify that “to ensure the best service quality and [to] cut your wait to a minimum, you must notify your requirements to the airline or your travel agent from the time of booking and at least 48h before your scheduled flight. If you have recently been ill, had an operation, or your condition is changing; you might need medical approval to travel. Consult your doctor.”
Particular cases specified by the airports: due to security reasons, passengers with severe mental disabilities can’t travel on long haul services without accompaniment.Travelling in and around France with a disability has certainly been made easier by the transport industry in the last few years with their concerted efforts in this area.
Accès plus (SNCF)
Phone: +33 (0) 890 640 650 (0,12 € TTC/min)
for emergencies : +33 (0)9 69 32 26 26
Saphir France (Air France)
Phone: +33 (0)820 01 24 24 (0,12 € TTC/min)