The situation regarding mobility issues for fans with disabilities in France is gradually improving - more monuments, museums and public areas are being designed or renovated with disabled visitors in mind, and new transport infrastructure typically includes visual and voice announcements along with improved wheelchair access over their predecessors.
While the tourist sites themselves may be accessible, however, access to them is another thing - you can never guarantee a ramped pavement or mitigate for a cobbled street in a medieval ‘old town’, and a lot of the old public transport infrastructure, such as large sections of the Paris Metro, is not wheelchair friendly.
So while improvements are being made it’s clear that there are still issues facing disabled supporters travelling to this summer’s tournament.
Part of Uefa’s social responsibility and sustainability programme for the tournament specifically focuses on improving access for disabled fans, and we’re pleased to say that all the host cities have taken measures not only within the stadiums but around the cities themselves to improve access for all fans.
A number of these improvements and initiatives will last beyond the Euros, providing an excellent legacy for the tournament.
While the stadiums will all fall in line with Uefa’s guidelines on accessibility, the situation is still somewhat hit-and-miss when it comes to transport, bars and restaurants and tourist sites, however.
We would advise disabled fans to plan their journeys carefully to help alleviate any potential issues in advance, and get in touch with venues before arriving to check accessibility arrangements.
The Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFE) have been working with Uefa since 2009 on good practice with regards to hosting Euro 2016 under the banner of ‘Respect - Access for All’.
The ‘Respect – Access for All’ programme aims to create different kinds of special areas and facilities inside the stadiums:
specific viewing areas for wheelchair users;
easy-access seats for disabled people who do not use a wheelchair but who need a seat that is easily accessible and near toilets;
special facilities for supporters who are hard of hearing, deaf, partially sighted or blind;
easy access to information for companions of disabled people attending matches.
The aim is to meet CAFE's minimum standards in terms of the number of spaces available for disabled supporters.
In addition, wherever they are located in the stadium, blind or partially sighted supporters will be offered a French-language audio-description commentary and official audio commentaries in other languages at all matches.
CAFE have produced a guide to host cities to help disabled fans in planning their journey to the tournament this summer.
It contains advice to assist with transport in each host city - including contact details and specific links for reserving wheelchair spaces on shuttle buses, assistance in airports and train stations, and the recommended timelines to contact travel providers ahead of time.
There’s also a useful breakdown on which public transport systems are disabled friendly, and useful tips for getting around Paris.
To download the guide, or to find out more about CAFE and their work, head to www.cafefootball.eu