I recently returned from a week-long trip to Paris. While there I got to thinking about the city design. In all honesty as a fully able-bodied person, I probably wouldn't have thought much about it had I not been with my parents. They too are fully able-bodied, but old. My mother cannot walk fast or too long distances and cannot take a lot of stairs. Her presence made me think in another way, which to me reiterates the importance of diverse design teams that bring different perspectives to the table.
Obviously, Paris is a very old city. Between 1853-1870 there was a reconstruction effort to make it more modern with wider and less windy streets. I do like the architecture in Paris, and I think the Hausman apartment buildings and houses look nice (at least from the outside). It is also a city that has a lot of pre-revolution palaces and churches. All of these buildings are tall, and they all needed stairs. Lots of stairs. In more modern buildings you might find an elevator, but take the Louvre for instance. We went there without my parents, and I am glad we didn't subject my mother to this place, it would've been really difficult for her. While the floors and rooms are huge and flat, there are still stairs to get from room to room. It was a lot of up and down for me a relatively healthy person. While my mother doesn't use a wheelchair, I thought about how one would even? In visiting the website now, I see that there is an accessibility plan, but I don't really understand it by the maps they provide. I'd need to be there again to fully comprehend it. I am not certain that someone bound to a wheelchair would have access to the whole museum, and that's just a shame. But this is the story of Paris. It's extremely walkable, which is good for a tourist and how many croissants she might consume while visiting, but for a tourist who has a hard time walking, or does not walk, it's simply difficult to get around. I do hope the city will address some of these things, I'd love to experience Paris again and again and maybe again when I also have a hard time getting around.
Next, digital. I didn't peruse a lot of websites while there, but I did often check for free wifi in parks and cafes. These free wifi sign in sites are not easy to navigate and so we spent most of the time without wifi. Getting lost happened more than once without access to Google maps! It's ok, they were good adventures. These sites though-- most of the time I just couldn't get past page one so I gave up. I don't know if the pages were translated or not, but there was no menu (that I could find) that pointed to an English (or other languages) version. A lot of these sites were also not responsive or mobile optimized in any way so they were even harder to read.
Those were a couple of negative and annoying things I noticed. But for something more positive, let's talk about the parks! This was absolutely my favorite part of our visit. On the less rainy days, we found one or two parks we had read about. I feel lucky in Philadelphia with all our parks, but Paris has us so beat. Their parks are huge. And landscaped so beautifully. And maintained. And sometimes they have all or some combo of cafes in the park, or clean public toilets in fancy looking structures! Or playgrounds for kids. Or basketball courts and boules/petanque courts. Or ponds filled with ducks. There's even a park that has a pedestrian bridge in the middle of it designed by Mr. Eiffel. The same Eiffel you're thinking of.
Next time you're in Paris, tell me what kinds of design things you notice.