As a wheelchair user, I am used to looking up at things. Whether it’s people standing up all around me, or bus timetables that are placed at just the wrong height to allow me to read them comfortably.
So I am always looking for places where I can survey the world from a different perspective, where I can look down rather than looking up. Being in Paris, you might have thought I would go up the Eiffel Tower, but I wanted to try something different. I wanted to see how Galeries Lafayette would manage when I said I wanted to go up to their rooftop terrace.
As a bit of background, Galeries Lafayette is one of the premier department stores in Paris. Located on one of the Grand Boulevards, and near the stunning opera house, it is decorated beautifully both inside and out.
Although I was tempted to exercise my credit card in the menswear department (you can never have enough shirts!) and headed to the lift and pressed the top button. Unfortunately but not unsurprisingly, I did not instantly arrive at the rooftop terrace. However I did arrive at a flight of stairs with a sign pointing upwards to the terrace. Not being a huge fan of stairs, I decided I needed to ask for assistance. Impossible! was the response from the incredulous shop assistant. There is no lift to the terrace.
Now, normally, I would have given up at this point, but I had inside information. I knew there was a lift and I wasn’t going to take ‘non’ for an answer. This is where I enlisted the help of my companions who were able to climb stairs to contact the manager of one of the terrace bars who then had to contact security who then eventually appeared to escort me to a service lift and up to the breathtaking views over Paris.
The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and Sacre Coeur glimmered in the Parisian sun. I could look down on the streets of Paris, the cars, the people and look across the rooftops. Paris is different to other cities as there are no skyscrapers in the city centre so you can literally see for miles.
A few ice cold cocktails and great company and my day was complete.
But how many Disabled People would be denied this great experience because they didn’t realise that there was a way for them to access the roof terrace?
WheelchairScope will be writing to Galeries Lafayette to ask them why they are not making it clearer that wheelchair users can access the terrace and showing them this article.
So our advice, based on thirty years of experience, is to not necessarily take the first answer you’re given when travelling. Sometimes the staff don’t always know what is accessible and what isn’t.
In the meantime, you can get an idea of the views I saw by clicking on the link below and watching my WheelchairScope
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