Paris in a large power Wheelchair

I did NOT find the French rude. First thing- if you aren’t rude first, they won’t be rude.
Whenever you enter a shop, restaurant, before you ask someone anything or address someone ALWAYS say “Bonjour” or if it is evening “Bonsoir” (pronounced bon-swa). ALWAYS. They are more into formal niceties (make sure to add your pleases and thank you’s). If you do this, you will find the Parisians very nice and welcoming. Almost everyone we encountered was wonderfully nice.

You might want to dress up a notch. Jeans and things are okay, but clean, newer jeans, etc. This will help with getting a little more respect. Americans tend to dress more ratty and casual and it is seen as disrespectful in nice settings and just generally kind slovenly. In a nice restaurant, you will be expected to dress up a little (and in some places tennis shoes and flip flops are forbidden).

As a wheelchair user you have every right to go to the front of lines in public spaces, elevators and bathrooms. Don’t be shy, be assertive. Claim your space.

CDG Airport

We arrived in terminal 1 (United Airlines is Terminal 1) with the chair undamaged! Yay. We had to go on some very steep ramps that were not immediately obvious to get to passport control and baggage claim. I needed my husband spotting my back on the way up after the down slope because it was too steep. So make sure whoever is with you stays with you and doesn’t go in the moving walkway while you go through the non-moving one.

You can go through a special line for passport control. Ask. In our case we were guided by an airline employee through the whole thing.

For terminal 1, we went down to level 3 to where the ordered cabs/Ubers, etc were to get our G7 taxi (which you call or order ahead on the G7 ap).. If you want to take the RER train in (if you happen to be near a station that is accessible and can verify that) you need to go to terminal 2 on the CDGVal train. The train is free and accessible and will take you to terminal 2 where you can get the RER.

The airport RER is accessible, but you need to confirm with them that you destination and every change between is. My understanding is that you can make it from the airport to Disney this way.

There are also buses from the terminals into Paris which are accessible. You may need to get your bus at terminal 2.

But- with all the luggage and uncertainty? I opted for the G7 taxi, and it worked really well.

On the way back we went from our hotel (the Sheraton) which is inside terminal 2. We got that hotel because our flight left in the morning, and working backwards we would have had to leave Paris at 5:30 AM. I didn’t want to take a chance on the G7 canceling on us (one did once) and it was easier and safer to already be at the airport. To get to terminal 1 we took the CDGVal train. It was accessed by taking a lift that was just to the left of the hotel’s exit down, then following the signs, and another elevator down. The gap was minimal and it was level, so no ramp needed. here was a marked off wheelchair section and they advise facing the chair forward (back would be okay, but it could tip if sideways). We took that to terminal 1. United departures were on the upper departure floor (not obvious, no signs).

The inside of the CDGVal train.

From check in desk at our airline, an agent guided us to the disability services counter, where a wheelchair agent took us through security and the general maze (which included restricted elevators only she had the key for) to our gate.

Terminal 1 is new and gorgeous. Because I was in business class, I could have used the lounge, but it was before security and we didn’t want to risk the timing. When we got to the gate the gate agent gave us meal vouchers to make up for this.

G7 Taxi

We were able to call a G7 taxi after we arrived at the airport (we didn’t want to book ahead because we didn’t know how long it would take to get the chair and lunge and go through passport control. You enter through the back and the ramp is steep. You’ll want support at your back and a slow speed going in.

Also, be careful to duck going in because the head room sucks in a large power chair. You have to recline your back or lean forward. Sitting upright you’d be more than hitting your head.

After more experience, I now know we are lucky we got it just by ordering one in the moment we wanted it. They are often unavailable if you don’t book ahead. If I had to do it again I’d book ahead, maybe even adding an hour and a half after the flight to be sure, then I’d try to edit the time once I got through the airport to have it come sooner if I was done sooner.

If you don’t book ahead, they are often unavailable. We also had one cancel on us because a marathon was blocking off part of the city on the day we had planned to go to Versailles. Instead of calling us and offering an alternative pickup they just canceled.

We booked ahead for the airport (but not for super early in the morning) and for the next attempt at Versailles both to and from and it worked fine. While at Versailles we changed the pickup to be a half hour later and it was fine.

*When you are using the ap be careful not to press it in such a way as you relocate your “I am here” marker. Double check the address is consistent before finalizing!


The buses are all accessible. There is a ramp that comes out in the middle. It works easily. The challenge is getting one. When we were there service kept being disrupted. You can pay in cash at the bus (it was stopped during covid but it’s back), or buy a Navigo card for multiple trips at an RER station (accessible) or Metro station (not). You can also buy single-trip tickets at those locations.

The RER Trains

a accessible entry into a train station

This is the longer distance train. We were able to take it from Chatelet Les Halles station (near the Opera- central Paris) to Marne-la-Vallée Chessy (Disneyland) without any issues. However, when we tried to take it from D’Orsay to Versailles it was a no-go. The Versailles station is accessible, but the D’Orsay station is not (there is an elevator and a ramp and it could be, but when we went there was no extra guy to deploy the ramp and they said no). We were told that our option was the Javel Station (yellow line), but we couldn’t get there by bus because the buses were disrupted. We ended up going another day by G7 taxi booked ahead (which cost us a LOT of money because the only time slots available were VIP tickets for $90 each instead of the free tickets).

In short, the RER trains that say they are accessible may not be. The only way to know for sure is to go to the nearest one and ask them to check for you. The bigger stations with more connections in the city and famous tourist destinations on the outskirts (Versailles and Disney) seem to be accessible though.

The Metro

Nope. Not accessible. Apparently some stations in the newest line are, but as a rule, the metro is not your friend.

Don’t Rent a Van

The only reason to rent a vehicle in Paris is to immediately get out of Paris and go somewhere else. For fun we counted available parking spaces during the 7 days we were all over town: ONE. It was also the only accessible spot we saw. Traffic and driving in Paris is notoriously horrible. It’s just not worth it.

Cobbles and Curb Cuts and Ramps

There are cobbles in Paris, but not everywhere. I was all over central Paris and they did not dominate.

While construction various places means you have to choose which side of the street you go down, mostly there are curb cuts everywhere. I only counted four non-curb cut sidewalk corners the whole trip (which is on par with San Francisco at least). Despite some youtube videos about obstacles in sidewalks, I did not encounter any, though there were a few tight spaces between poles to navigate. HOWEVER, many curb cuts are way higher than in the US. The standard is 1-2 inches from the street, but some are more like 3-4 inches. For those I needed my husband to support my back going over them.

Many ramps are too steep. I needed my husband to support my back going up them.

I would not want to do this alone with no one to support my back on the high ramps and curb cuts.


A large accessible bathroom with sink and changing table.

Most large places (Disney, museums, Moulin Rouge) have accessible bathrooms (the one pictured is in the Muse de Orangerie. The ones that are in a stall in the regular restroom are much bigger stalls than in the US. You can pull alongside a toilet to transfer. They have sinks. Of course sometimes people use them for storage and they become inaccessible. If you are going to one inside the regular restroom as a wheelchair user, the standard practice is to cut the line and use it as soon as it is free. In many places there is a separate bathroom. Look for that first because if it is there the regular bathroom might not have one.

In most restaurants the restroom is downstairs or there is no public restroom. The public toilets are horrific and shops don’t have public restrooms. This means whenever you have access to a bathroom you should use it coming and going because you have no idea where the next one will be. I have heard the McDonald’s has accessible restrooms though, so if you are prepared to go buy something there you can use theirs.


We booked through Wheel the World, which helped us find hotels that would work for us and the chair. I gave them detailed information and they provided options. Better to go through an agent over phone or email than to do things through the automated system. The automated system makes mistakes (ie, you put in your profile “no steps” and it suggests a hotel with steps). With our agent we had all the details and it all worked.

We stayed at the Renaissance Vendome in the Opera district, and it was really great. The staff were incredible at absolutely leaping to meet our needs. It was an expensive neighborhood and expensive hotel, but we were willing to spend extra for a location central to everything we planned to see, which really paid off as there were times we couldn’t get transportation. This way we were never more than a 35 minute walk/roll from where we wanted to go (exception of Versailles and Disneyland).

Hotel rooms in Paris are TINY, even in nice hotels. To share a room with a roll in bed for my daughter and still have space to park the chair we needed to book a suite. “Suite” in Paris meant one larger room, not actually two rooms. It was just enough space. If you have a roll in bed a king sized room will not be big enough in Paris.

We got a regular two double-bed room in Disneyland (an accessible one at Newport Bay and a regular one in the New York/Marvel hotel) and those were about the same size as our Paris “suite”.

For the last night we booked the Sheraton at the CDG airport. It is the only hotel actually in the terminal (terminal 2), which made it perfect. Because the inter-airport train is accessible, the issue of getting to the airport in the morning was easy. We had plenty of buffer time getting to the hotel the night before instead of a crack-of dawn mad dash to (hopefully) get the chair transported to the airport in the morning. I don’t like leaving that up to chance. There was a bar with bar food and tapas and a restaurant there for dinner.

Proof of Disability

You need to have proof of disability to enter certain sites free or get accessibility treatment. The places that checked us were The Louvre, Versailles and Disneyland but any of them could have. Your handicapped parking permit with its paperwork will work. A disabled Veteran’s card, or and America the Beautiful card should also work. I used my parking permit with paperwork as the paper has my name on it and they can check against my passport.

Disneyland Paris

The Paris Disney castle- a pink fairytale castle on a hill with square-cut trees.

I have an entire separate post on that here.

the Louvre

The louvre, as seen from inside the glass pyramid looking out at the rest of the building.

Get tickets ahead online. You and one adult with you are free (with proof of disability). Children under 18 are free BUT you still need to reserve a ticket for the date and time well ahead! Do not show up expecting to get in. It won’t happen.

You enter at the large pyramid in front. Do not wait in line, just go to an employee and they will show you where to enter directly. They should direct you to wait on the left by some glass doors in the glass railing. The elevator is CRAZY. It is a cylinder that rises out of the floor and up to the entrance level (4 floors up). They will deploy a ramp for you to get on (it looks like without it it is not stable enough). This takes you to the bottom floor. To get up to the level of the exhibitors, go towards the main building (away from the direction you entered centered between the escalators) and to the right, following a “to exhibitions” sign. There is an elevator tucked off to the right.

To get to the main Parisian Paintings galleries with Raft of the Medusa and Liberty Leading the People, (plus the Mona Lisa) go left when you get out of the elevator towards the gift shop and enter through that gate. On this side is also the classical sculptures section (including Nike and the Venus de Milo).

To see the Mona Lisa- go to the left side, past the line all the way down. They will let you into a special viewing area with your party and then let you out on the right side.

To get to the Royal Apartments you have to go back out through the gift shop entrance and go around to the opposite side entrance (staying on the gift shop level). There is otherwise no combination of elevators/rolling/walking that can get you there.

Always use the bathroom before leaving any place with a bathroom (including the Louvre). There is an accessible stall in the back. Don’t be shy about skipping the line to get to it.

Sainte Chapelle

A gorgeous gothic chapel with tons of stained glass and very high ceilings.

Is amazing. Architecture went from Romanesque (basically a fortress, small windows, round arches) to get pointier and pointier and more and more glass as it went Gothic. San Chapel is the pinnacle of Gothic Architecture in the world. It’s all glass with just the ribs of the church. A marvel of architecture.

Enter through the large gate furthest to the right by the justice building (right of the regular entrance). They will show you how to enter the bottom of the chapel. In this room is a smaller, low-ceiling chapel mostly filled with gift shop. You may not return here so get anything you want to get (pictures and souvenirs) before telling the guards that you want to go upstairs to the chapel proper.

They will take you up an elevator in the justice building and across a bridge. Take advantage of the restroom in the justice building. Paris doesn’t have lots of places to go. You enter via a bridge to the proper front doors. Unlike everyone else you get to see the outside of them!

A red double church door with a pillar and figure in the center in white stone.

Muse Rodin

Rodin was a revolutionary sculptor. His work is expressive, bold and raw. My favorite after Bernini (Renaissance).

A bronze sculpture of three standing men leaning in and touching hands.

I did this in the same day as San Chapel and it worked beautifully. We explored the Latin Quarter in between and had savory crepes (galettes) at Breizh Cafe (highly recommend) in between. It’s relatively close by. Again, don’t wait in line to get in, ask someone. Totally accessible. There are gardens as well as the museum itself. I went around the upper gardens (pea gravel), but did not feel up to trying the lower gardens, and did not see a ramp, but I didn’t look hard or ask.

Musee D’Orsay

A marble sculpture of a seated women with a tortoise shell lyre.

Traditional artwork leading up to the impressionists, impressionists, post impressionists, art Nouveau… its a gorgeous museum.

You, one adult companion, and anyone under 18 are free with proof of disability. If you have anyone in your party who needs to pay, you need to book ahead, otherwise this is the only one you don’t have to! As always, don’t wait in line, find someone who works there and they will show you the accessible entrance to skip the line.

We ate at the amazing restaurant (not cafe). which I HIGHLY recommend. There wasn’t even a line (but cafe was slammed). Gorgeous room, great food. No reservations required (or accepted).

From the main floor you go up a series of ramps and can see a series of rooms on the side. To get to the floor with decorative arts is a bit tricky. There is a ramp through a door from the front of floor 1 up to floor 2. It is not intuitive. Ask if you need to. Don’t miss the upper floor with the Van Gogh’s and the Manets it’s really the best one.

Bathrooms are good, always use before leaving!

Muse Orangerie

A close-up of Monet's water lilies

Again, free to disabled and one adult companion, and also for under 18 year olds. You do need to book a time slot in advance.

This is the museum where Monet had two rooms built especially for viewing his water lilies in the round (or oval) They surround you on all sides. Really wonderful. Also a lot of other impressionist, post impressionist, modern and contemporary art. Gift shop is a little tight, bathroom is good. Use before leaving!


A series of greek statues in white marble on plinths receding into the distance in a garden with trimmed hedges.

You must book well in advance for a time slot. Admission is free for disabled (with proof of disability) and one adult companion. Under 18 years old are also free, BUT you still need to get a timed ticket for entry. The entrance is cobblestones which are very aggressively bumpy in the chair. There is a path up the middle with less bumpy cobbles. Again you can skip the line, they will show you where to go.

It takes a full day. Arrive in the morning. We arrived at 10:30 are were able to see the palace by 1PM. I suggest doing the gift shop and bathrooms (right nearby behind a barrier, ask attendant) first, it’s hard to access in the end the way they put you through the building. . We had lunch in the Angelina restaurant afterwards (another bathroom was by the restaurant). There is another restaurant, the Ore where you can book ahead. Having lunch and seeing (a fraction of) the grounds took us to 4pm. Another bathroom was outside the palace up a ramp to the right as you face the exit- ask attendant.

First you can see a chapel downstairs before they take you to the elevator. It is a very weird narrow sideways elevator. So it is shallow and wide. It’s tricky to maneuver into but I did it in my permobile. Then you go through the palace. Everything is one way, so if you want to see or photograph something see it the first time. After you go through everything you get into another, more normal elevator and can go down to the gardens or to the restaurant floor. We opted for the restaurant.

You can skip the restaurant line and go directly in. There is a snack bar to the right (sandwiches to take, etc.) and a sit down restaurant to the left. We did the restaurant and it did not disappoint. If you want other lunch options there are several restaurants (less nice) scattered around the gardens) and the *** restaurant, which needs reservations.

The gardens are accessible but there is gravel and the occasional very steep ramp or bump where I felt I needed my husband to steady the back of the chair to keep all my wheels down. The gardens are huge. Don’t worry about getting lost, there are signs everywhere.

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower a night, lit with both golden light, and sparkling white lights.

I did not go. I couldn’t book tickets ahead, but I wasn’t sure about going anyway. I have since heard that there is a HUGE line for non-reserved (day of) tickets, but you can go right past it with proof of disability. No pre ticket needed, no wait. Discount for disability tickets. From what I learned in my research and from friends who have gone, the area around the base has loads of pickpockets, and the elevators are a crush of people. The view is amazing, but the experience overall is meh. We opted to get a dinner reservation at a restaurant with an amazing view of it instead. It does a light show every hour on the hour starting at 9PM.

My research ahead said basically that if you eat near there (unless you go to a handful of recommended places), you will almost certainly get overpriced, less good food.

Champs de Elysees

The Arc de Triomphe with people strolling in front of it.  Bare trees.

This is a touristy. High end mainstream shops you get everywhere in the world. Lots of bad overpriced food again. Fine to stroll down though. We went from the park at one end all the way up to the Arc de Triomphe. We did not do the arch itself (which is supposed to be wheelchair accessible now) and just looked from the outside before heading to our restaurant just outside the area.

Moulin Rouge

Is definitely a tourist destination, but that said the show is impressive. If you are offended by topless women or with a kid you don’t want exposed to that, this is not your show. You must book ahead. We booked the 7PM dinner and show. Once you book, you need to email the restaurant ( and give them details about your wheelchair along with your reservation information.

You come 30 minutes early and enter through a separate entrance (they ask to have the rest of your party come separately but I kept my husband with me. It was just as well because there is a steep ramp that I would not be comfortable going up without someone holding the back of my chair. Then there is a tiny elevator that takes you to the lobby level. The gift shop is up a few steps and there is no getting to it. I had my husband take pictures of things for me. Then they take you to the main venue, where the stairs turn into a wheelchair lift! It’s really cool! They take you down and then you’re at the dining height.

The dinner show is kindof tragic. It was like someone did it in the 70’s and never updated it- very lounge-singer-y. BUT the main (post dinner) show is impressive. More people enter after the dinner to watch the main show, but I’m not sure what kind of seats you would get if you just did just the main show without the dinner as a wheelchair user. There wouldn’t be a lot of options.

I was a cancan dancer before getting sick, but what I liked best was the in-between acrobats acts. There was an amazing roller skating act, balancing act and contact dance/acrobatics act. The one that bothered me was a lady in a pool of water with a lot of poor snakes. My favorite of the dances was the one traditional cancan they did. The final number was very… pink. When dinner is done they hustle you out as fast as possible after enough other people have left for that side of the stairs to be clear.

There was an accessible bathroom (again, don’t be shy about skipping the line) that was separate from the main bathrooms at the end of the hall. If had a patio lounger in it that would have made it hard to use if you needed to transfer. If I had needed a transfer I would have asked the staff to remove it (it shouldn’t be in there!). I did mention it to them that they should remove it after.


ALWAYS note you have a wheelchair in the reservation, and if you need to go sideways to the table to take two seats.

L’Oiseau Blanc (The White Bird, named after a famous airplane) was AMAZING. A highlight of the trip. Two Michelin Stars and a view to die for of the Paris skyline and the Eiffel Tower. The tower does a light show every hour starting at 9PM and you can see it well from eh restaurant. THIS is how we saw the Eiffel tower and it was perfect. Expensive, but if you are a foodie or up for trying an elaborate French meal in a gorgeous setting it’s worth it. Aeronautically themed with a white plane outside. I recommend the wine pairing with the menu. Reservations required well in advance. I recommend getting a table for between 7-8PM because dinner will take 2.5/3 hours. Bathroom was accessible and adorable (steel with rivets like an airplane!

Access to the restaurant was around the corner to the left, left of that side’s entrance. Up a small elevator, through a non-public section of the hotel, then up an elevator in the lobby.

A view of the riffle tower through a curved window with a searchlight in the foreground.

We also went to Meurice Alain Ducasse (again two Michelin stars and of course expensive). Reservations required well in advance. We noticed the clientele was more… upscale touristy/eating there just to eat at an expensive place without caring about the food. One lady came in, Instagrammed everything and left without ordering. The food was excellent (and equal to L’Oiseau Blanc) but if I had to pick between it and the L’Oiseau Blanc it’s no contest that L’Oiseau Blanc would win. Again, I recommend going with the wine pairing. Bathroom was accessible

Access to the restaurant was through another door off to the left of the usual door, through the back of the front desk of the hotel.

me (blonde woman with long hair dressed in black in a black wheelchair) in a large, ornate 1770's style dining room done in shades of cream and gold.

L’Absinthe (in the Opera area). It was more casual, able to walk in without a reservation. Very good regular/nice food. We had the bavette (flank steak) ordered rare (because we learned it got us medium rare in Paris- if you want rare-rare ask for bleu) and were not at all disappointed. Did not note an accessible bathroom (but I might have missed it). They have an extensive selection of absinthe wines (new to me) and well as absinth liquor. Also regular wines.

We tried to go to Au Bougnat (near Norte Dame) for lunch on a friend’s recommendation, but it was NOT accessible (steps).

Instead we went to Breizh Cafe for galettes (savory crepes) and crepes. We went to the one by the Latin quarter, but there are a few others in the city. It was excellent- great example of high-end crepes done right. It’s also traditional to drink hard cider with your crepe. The ciders in Europe are not sickly sweet like in the US. The bathroom there is accessible (use one whenever you find one!), but the trash can is huge and a bit in the way.

We also had dinner at La Cordonnerie (Opera area). It’s tiny. Reserve ahead and make sure to note you have a wheelchair in the reservation. There is only one table that works for us. It’s neat though- the “kitchen” is a tiny thing open to the restaurant and you are right next to it. We had a great talk with the chef, who advised us on our meal and wine selections. It was a good classic French meal, though of the restaurants I listed for dinner the food was the least good.

Published by Mary Corey March

I am a contemporary artist living and working in San Francisco. The root of my work is exploring both the individual person and humanity through identity, relationships, diversity, and commonality. How do we define ourselves and each other? Where do we draw the lines and what happens _on_ those lines? How to we frame our experiences? How much of our humanity can come through in a data format? Through our symbolic images? Our words? Our definitions? Our bodies? These are the questions I delve into again and again. In May of 2017 I became disabled with ME/CFS. I have since continued my artwork with the help of assistants. I am in a wheelchair outside of the home.

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