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A week ago, I flew from Newark to Paris to commence a five-week study abroad program with a number of classmates. I arrived a week early and am living with old family friends, exploring the entire city and trying to do some reporting for DK and a campus publication.

Life is different here--that much is certain. Some things are better: the Metro is cheap, quiet, and even gets cell phone reception. Despite being vegetarian, I've still managed to eat well, loving the wide variety of cheeses and frequent open-air markets, plus the occasional falafel-and-shawarma stand. The city is very walkable, and I've explored nearly every neighborhood (or arrondissement) over the past four days.

But that's not to say this place doesn't have it's problems. Besides being here to study, I'm on assignment for a campus magazine, writing about the ZUS (sensitive urban zones) of France and trying to smash a bunch of right-wing propaganda about them in the process. But that's for a later diary. Today, I'm writing about the sad predicament faced by disabled people in Paris.

On July 26, 1990, President George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. This law is responsible for many things we don't even think about today: elevators in schools, priority parking for the handicapped, sidewalk cutaways, and accessibility ramps in public offices and accommodations. In addition, it gave the handicapped a needed leg-up in ways most of us will never witness, by barring employment discrimination and requiring telecoms to extend their services to the deaf. This law was expanded upon by a bipartisan package of amendments signed by George W. Bush in 2008.

France has no equivalent.

Granted, their are some protections extended to the handicapped, as is to be expected in an industrialized liberal democracy. Employment discrimination is barred, and in fact, quotas and financial incentives are in place to encourage the employment of the handicapped. By and large, though, the country is physically off-limits for those with mobility-limiting disabilities.

I began to ponder these struggles as soon as I arrived at Charles du Gaulle airport. I was pulling two wheeled bags on my way to the train platform to take an RER (regional railway) train into the city. Fortunately, a specialty turnstile was available; unfortunately, however, the escalator to the the platform was shut off. The platform at this terminal did not have an elevator, and so I had to lift 90 pounds of luggage down the 50+ stairs to the platform, where I hopped on a waiting train to Paris. I would not have been able to take my train if I had been mobility-limited.

Upon arrival at the Gare du Nord, a railway station some two metro stops and five blocks from where I would be spending my first night in Paris, I was greeted by a confusing array of turnstiles and levels. After climbing roughly twenty steps with my luggage, I was relieved to see an elevator that could take me between the other levels of the station.

Imagine my disgust upon seeing it. Though the elevator was glass, the floor was made of wooden planks that were wearing away, looked to have never been cleaned, and smelled of urine. The elevator moved at around fifty feet per minute, less than one-fourth the speed of many in the US. I was thankful that at least both sets of doors opened.

Once I disembarked, bought tickets, and went to the Metro, I found that there was no turnstile gateway for the disabled. I was forced to validate my ticket at one turnstile and rush through another that was broken and stuck open. Once again, on the other side, there was no elevator. I rode an escalator to the platform and took the Metro to my destination, where I had to climb more than fifty stairs to the street. If I had been in a wheelchair, I would have been forced to take a taxi.

Upon arrival, I was forced to negotiate the extremely narrow sidewalks on the way to my lodging. Though the images of Paris you see often show wide sidewalks, that is only a reality on the main thoroughfares of the city. More often than not, the sidewalks are asphalt, lack cutaways, and have black poles sticking out of them (see image at right)--which, though intended to prevent cars from parking on the sidewalk, have the effect of making some of them too narrow, like this one I walked upon, for a wheelchair to squeeze by, or even from two people to walk abreast. Multiple times, I was forced to abandon the sidewalk for the street, which fortunately was paved at all points along my path. At other points, narrow scaffolding was set up along the sidewalks to fulfill the French legal requirement that all buildings be tuckpointed every ten years, forcing me again into the street.

When I finally reached where I would be staying, I climbed over a five- to six-inch sill that would have been hard if not impossible to surmount in a wheelchair. Thank god there was an elevator to my floor! Never mind that I had to climb seven stairs to get to it and the fact that it was less that two feet wide. Here's a video of a typical French elevator in an apartment building. Good thing I'm French-normal!

So, you may wonder, the Metro, trains, elevators, and even sidewalks can be foreboding. What's a mobility-limited Parisian to do? Answer: Have crutches and friends, or suffer. I've seen a small number of people on crutches, and most of them have been accompanied by a friend to help them navigate the narrow sidewalks and frequent stairways that dot hilly Paris. Even with friends, though, good luck getting to the famous, stair-attained and cobblestone-decked heights of the neighborhood of Montmartre (though a lift exists, it is intended for use by tourists).

Other times, I've seen people limping along by themselves; some of these people have appeared homeless, and others afflicted by a mental disability. To wit, according to the French Embassy, in 2005, 17% of the handicapped of France were homeless.

But there is still some reluctance to accommodate handicapped and mobility-limited Parisians. One of my hosts works at a private school in Paris, and tells me that "by 2015, we're going to have to put elevators in all of our buildings." In her view, however, this is unfortunate. The buildings, she explained, are extremely old, and in some of them, as many as ten classrooms would have to be ripped out for elevators to be installed. "We may end up just not using some buildings," she tells me. And is there any waiver process, or means of accommodation such as scheduling classes with mobility-limited persons in buildings with elevators, I ask? She doesn't know.

In spite of her sentiments towards such mandates, however, my host tells me that she does wish the city were more accessible. "We had a friend with MS who we desperately wanted to visit," she tells me as we climb two gratuitous stairs in the sidewalk. "But we just couldn't figure out how to do it. There's no shuttle or anything. We'd have to rent a car." Sadly, she passed away before my host family could make such arrangements.

Progress is being made. In some places, I have seen handicapped parking spots; in others, cutaways are under construction. I've heard that the majority of French busses are now "kneeling," have lifts, and are accessible to those with mobility-limiting handicaps. Though the lift was out of order when I visited the Arche de Triomphe, there is a lift. In perhaps a fitting metaphor for the struggles of the handicapped in France, the first and second levels of the Eiffel Tower are now attainable for those in wheelchairs--but the summit is still out of reach.

Originally posted to JackinStL on Thu May 26, 2011 at 06:08 AM PDT.

Also republished by Youth Kos 2.0 and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I keep forgetting that "Bush" can include the (14+ / 0-)

    relatively sane Elder as well as Junior.  (And let's not forget the congresses who sent the bills to them to sign as well... no way it would ever get through today's House.)

    They only call it Class War when we fight back.

    by lineatus on Thu May 26, 2011 at 06:48:11 AM PDT

    •  I'm not clear why a Bush gets credit for this... (7+ / 0-)

      ...either of 'em.

      Is it because they didn't veto decent legislation when they had a chance? That would be a low bar for credit.

      Did either Poppy or the dummy actually advocate for ADA? Did either work to get particularly beneficial provisions included?

      'Course, I'm open to some sorta info that demonstrates that the diary title is accurate.

      Cheers.

      •  History is bigger than hate. (8+ / 0-)

        In his acceptance speech at the 1988 republican convention:

        "I am going to do whatever it takes to make sure the disabled are included in the mainstream."

        His remarks on signing the bill into law:

        "I know there may have been concerns that the ADA may be too vague or too costly, or may lead endlessly to litigation. But I want to reassure you right now that my administration and the United States Congress have carefully crafted this Act. We've all been determined to ensure that it gives flexibility, particularly in terms of the timetable of implementation; and we've been committed to containing the costs that may be incurred.... Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down."

        If all he did was fail to veto the law, that says something, too. Bush issued 44 vetoes during his 4 year term, and only one was overridden. If he didn't want it to become law, it would not have.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Thu May 26, 2011 at 11:49:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "History is bigger than hate."...? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Amber6541, khereva

          What's that all about?

          Since when did reasonable, open-minded skepticism equals "hate"?

          You know, a quick trip to the googles shows that there are sources other than quickie wiki quotes, sources that can provide a very different view of Bush's words, actions and uses of the signing ceremony, such as...

          The tone of the ceremony was both presidential and partisan...In the speech and in the pictures of the event, the White House kept the focus on Republicans. Instead of mentioning the many Democratic Congressmen who had worked on the legislation, the President chose to single out Republican Minority Leader Robert Dole for special praise. Not only did Dole work hard on the legislation, he also belonged to the group that would benefit from it.

          Nah, reasonable, open-minded skepticism is not hate.

          Cheers.

          •  Reflexive 'Bush Sucks' does. (0+ / 0-)

            So -- out of curiosity --

            How non-partisan has President Obama been?
            (Hint -- not very.)

            BTW, what does that have to do with the legislation?
            (answer:pretty much nothing)

            LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

            by dinotrac on Thu May 26, 2011 at 12:29:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  sure, tho' I didn't write "Bush Sucks", did I? (0+ / 0-)

              So, do you have anything cogent to say here? Anything?

              •  Did either Poppy or the dummy ...j n/t (0+ / 0-)

                LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

                by dinotrac on Thu May 26, 2011 at 12:55:48 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Like I figured, you have nothing cogent. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  khereva

                  "Poppy or the dummy" = "Bush Sucks"...? Nah, that's a unworkably thin-skinned stretch.

                  I think you're projecting your own reflexes.

                  However, back to the point that you've failed to support - I'm still open to some demonstration that it is justified to credit Poppy and the dummy with some element of bringing ADA to reality.

                  Cheers.

                  •  I'm still open ---Riiiiight. (0+ / 0-)

                    Here's a hint:

                    The bill got to his desk and he signed it.

                    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

                    by dinotrac on Thu May 26, 2011 at 01:19:42 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  If this helps even a little -- (0+ / 0-)

                    House Vote : 377-28
                    Senate vote : 91-6

                    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

                    by dinotrac on Thu May 26, 2011 at 01:23:45 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Poppy - veto legislation with those numbers...? (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      khereva

                      ...you're undercutting your contention that Poppy deserves some credit.

                      Seriously.

                      It looks like Poppy signed a popular piece of legislation. And then he crowed about it and used it to make political hay.

                      Seems that legislators deserve more credit than Bushes.

                      It's unfortunate that the diary title clouds the issue by mis-crediting Bushes.

                      •  You're proving your close-mindedness. (0+ / 0-)

                        Here are some GIANT hints, but probably not big enough for your hate-soaked "heart":

                        Democrats didn't have 91 votes in the Senate.
                        They didn't have 60, either.

                        That bill passed with a lot of Republican votes.
                        That bill could not have passed without them, as you must be aware after the ACA debacle.

                        That bill would not have passed if the administration opposed it.

                        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

                        by dinotrac on Thu May 26, 2011 at 01:56:53 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

            •  This doesn't pass the laugh test. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JackinStL
              How non-partisan has President Obama been?

              Extremely, and not in a good way.

              grieving citizen of the murdered Republic, unrepentant rebel against the Empire.

              by khereva on Thu May 26, 2011 at 03:42:51 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  to be fair, Bush sucked. (0+ / 0-)

              "Pretty soon we're not going to be able to find reasonable decent people who are willing to subject themselves to serving public office." Sheriff Dupnik, AZ

              by voracious on Thu May 26, 2011 at 04:06:39 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Paris is a very old city (7+ / 0-)

    It is unsurprising that it would not be up to date with any number of modern expectations for built infrastructure. I doubt it ever will be.

    And I believe it is l'Arc de Triomphe, not "Arche" de Triomphe.   According to my Larousse, "arche" would be an arc, à la Noah.

  •  A problem throughout Europe (12+ / 0-)

    Something we take for granted in North America is that the vast majority of our infrastructure and architecture is post-industrial, and the majority is post-war. That means, for the most part, that it's bigger; it also means that very little of it is stone or solid brick. And it means that much of it is more cheaply made and has a far shorter lifespan.

    It's not as expensive to refit a 20-year-old building with elevators and wider doorways as it is a 200-year-old building. And it's pretty much the norm to tear down a 50-year-old building and replace it with a modern one if it suits you, but it would be unthinkable to do that to a 500-year-old building.

    And as for the sidewalks, when the road and sidewalk span the entire gap between rows of solid brick and stone historical buildings, and the road's already as narrow as it can get and still permit vehicular traffic, you have a problem; making the sidewalks accessible means closing the roads.

    It sounds like a load of excuses for an inexcusable situation. And it probably is, to an extent; France is sending the message to its disabled residents that they're a very low priority. But it does help to recognize that there are competing interests and priorities, and not all of them are purely financial.

    •  kyril, "unthinkable to do that" why? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Amber6541, chimene

      I know there's a shortage of land, but what about the need to clean,
      repair, update, and yes, strengthen (against some hazards not widely recognized by builders 500 years ago)?

      Competing interests & priorities? Like the clouds of secondhand Gauloisie (sic) smoke at all those "charming little Parisian cafes" where you get offered horse steak?

      No, thanks. Having just returned to West Texas from a trip to Kentucky, I have recently discovered that even our bleeding-scarlet-Bush-country public accommodations are more sensible when it comes to some hazards than the "civilized South".

      BTW: I am truly sorry for the folks in Joplin, Springfield, Memphis, and other places recently stricken by tornadoes.

      But please, as you rebuild, rebuild to post-1990 codes and incorporate the ADA rules as you go.

      LBJ & Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees: Texas is No Bush League! -7.50,-5.59

      by BlackSheep1 on Thu May 26, 2011 at 09:19:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  rebuilding to post-1990 codes (5+ / 0-)

        is excellent, if it's done. Unfortunately, it also raises building costs, and there will be shouts and cries against that.

        A lot of the hastily-assembled houses in the US in the last 10-15 years were made of particle board and staples.

        There is something to be said for meter-thick cut-stone walls, even if it's uneconomic to build that way now.

        Amount of federal money to National Public Radio in 2010: $2,700,000 / Amount to Jerry Falwell's Liberty University: $446,000,000 / Source -- Harper's Index, June 2011

        by Mnemosyne on Thu May 26, 2011 at 10:13:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  dunno about uneconomical ... not cheap (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mnemosyne, Amber6541

          being my preference. I like durable over bling, though...

          adobe's good.
          stone (have you seen some of the fieldstone houses in the Ozark mountains?) is pretty good.
          reinforcement against earthquake, flood and tornado, I suspect, is gonna become the "lesson learnt" of the 2020s.

          LBJ & Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees: Texas is No Bush League! -7.50,-5.59

          by BlackSheep1 on Thu May 26, 2011 at 10:17:05 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  durable, yes, in individual houses (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Amber6541, kyril

            but a lot of what fueled the American real estate boom was mass-produced as fast and as cheaply as possible.

            European cities, such as in France, have a lot of durable buildings that, as the diarist points out, aren't up to modern accessibility standards -- although I suspect the office buildings in La Defense might be, given their recent vintage. But those cities also don't have the room to sprawl the way American ones do.

            Amount of federal money to National Public Radio in 2010: $2,700,000 / Amount to Jerry Falwell's Liberty University: $446,000,000 / Source -- Harper's Index, June 2011

            by Mnemosyne on Thu May 26, 2011 at 10:29:54 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Problem: (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kyril, Mnemosyne

              No one lives in La Défense ;)

              But there are some nicer suburbs, particularly to the South, where housing is cheap. Farther away, even in Chartres or Fontainebleu, you're just an hour's train ride away.

              Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/NewshamJ

              by JackinStL on Thu May 26, 2011 at 12:08:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  This may make me an asshole (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, Mnemosyne

          (although I am very glad for the ADA), but what the hell, I'll say it.

          The house my grandfather was raised in is now a historical site, restored to the way it looked when he was a young man in the 1920s. His father had some fame in his day.  But the house also has other purposes as a site for cultural events in its city.

          I adore going there and seeing the lush old Queen Anne Victorian house and family memorabilia, but the mandatory ramp . . . GAH!  Bad feng shuey.  By God, couldn't some historic sites just round up volunteers to transfer those with mobility problems? I'm sure it could be done in a dignified way.

          Sometimes a .sig is just a .sig.

          by rhubarb on Thu May 26, 2011 at 10:55:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I tend to agree (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JackinStL, Amber6541, kyril, rhubarb

            although I have great sympathy for those who can't just walk up the front steps. I walked with a cane for a time after a bad injury several years ago, and even that amount of limitation was difficult.

            It's not always the ramp as such, but the fact that they're built of plain lumber and at an awkward angle. Some effort to make a ramp blend with the style of the house could go a long way toward easing the visual blight.

            Amount of federal money to National Public Radio in 2010: $2,700,000 / Amount to Jerry Falwell's Liberty University: $446,000,000 / Source -- Harper's Index, June 2011

            by Mnemosyne on Thu May 26, 2011 at 10:59:33 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Valid points (7+ / 0-)

      The points you make about old buildings and narrow roads are completely valid. I don't know how one retrofits a 300 year old building or a road that was designed for carriages to meet ADA requirements.

      That doesn't explain the failure of the French to retrofit ultra-modern CDG airport or the Metro, however. They would have problems making their whole country as accessible as ours is, but it seems to me they've never even made the effort even when a minimal effort would be beneficial to people who really do need a little help.

      The Bush Family: 0 for 4 in Wisconsin

      by Korkenzieher on Thu May 26, 2011 at 11:17:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  most of Paris isn't that old (0+ / 0-)

      A lot of it was torn down and re-built in the late 1800's, and entire neighborhoods (well, slums) were being torn down as late as the 1960s.

  •  Rome was similar. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shaharazade, Amber6541, chimene

    When I was studying abroad there, my mother came to visit me Thanksgiving week, along with some additional family members including my mother's cousin who used a wheelchair (although she could walk short distances if need be).  It was a royal pain moving around the city; I couldn't imagine doing it with someone who couldn't walk at all.

    But what kyril said above applies as well.  It is a different world over there; especially in the older cities.  It's an excuse, but it's a pretty damn good one when you consider just what it would take to make the whole place accessable.

    One should no more deplore homosexuality than left-handedness. ~Towards a Quaker View of Sex, 1964 (Proud left-handed queer here!) SSP: wmlawman

    by AUBoy2007 on Thu May 26, 2011 at 08:35:58 AM PDT

  •  You are very lucky to be able to explore Paris as (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1, mali muso, Amber6541

    a student.  I travelled extensively around the contient during the year and a half I lived in Madrid as a student, and then for two years afterward.  It was very different not being a student.

    The ADA does not extend extraterritorial so colleges and universities have no obligation to try and make accomodations for students with mobility issues to study abroad. The lack of accomodations for persons with limited mobility is a big issue for study abroad programs accross Europe, Russia, China, Japan, and South America.  Australia and New Zealand.  

    I just attened a conference for university attorneys covering study abroad issues.  Higher education is an industry and study abroad is becoming a critical part of the product.  Schools on this side of the pond are pushing for changes, looking for partners abroad that can accomodate persons with limited mobility at least in the classroom and housing.  Some schools are making the greater effort to provide students with mobility issues more opportunities for transportation in cities and travel between them.  Still, all of this has yet to amount to much

    I'll need some room for this...

    by duckhunter on Thu May 26, 2011 at 09:04:34 AM PDT

  •  "it gave the handicapped a needed leg-up" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rhubarb

  •  reminds me of a man i met (5+ / 0-)

    while I was Eurorailing my way around Europe.  He was an American freelance journalist who was in a wheelchair.  I spent a few hours with him on a train between Croatia and Slovakia.  In order to get on and off the train, he had to recruit fellow passengers to lift/lower him in his chair to and from the platform (it was not level with the train).  During our journey, he told stories about his adventures solo traveling in a wheelchair in places like Saudi Arabia and Iran.  He'd been to some 80-odd countries...more than most able-bodied folks will even dream of visiting in their lifetimes.  I have to say, I was impressed and inspired by his energy and determination.  Because of mobility issues like you've pointed out here, he had to rely upon people around him to help him do the things we take for granted.  

  •  Don't let Democrats Ramshield see this... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JackinStL, cardinal, chimene, eXtina

    ...you'll spoil his whole "Europe is a socialist utopia" schtick.

    That's pronounced COOLbert.

    by Red State Ambassador on Thu May 26, 2011 at 10:46:16 AM PDT

  •  George Herbert Walker Bush (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    icemilkcoffee, chimene

    did a lot of things right.  He looks positively Lincolnesque compared to his son.

    "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
    I am a volunteer for Bob Massie for MA-Sen

    by TrueBlueMajority on Thu May 26, 2011 at 10:50:17 AM PDT

  •  All americans freshly landing in europe or asia (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541

    the first thing they complain about is the walking. Seriously here in the US of A we are spoilt that we have door to door car rides and expansive parking lots. Elsewhere in the world you pound the pavement. We are accustomed to dragging our wheeled luggages effortlessly gliding from airport to airport. Elsewhere you travel light and carry a backpack.

    Anyways- have fun in Paris. I look forward to reading more dispatches.

  •  When I spent (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541

    2 weeks in Europe last May, hardly an hour went by when my wife or I didn't remark "wow, I'm glad we're not disabled.  We wouldn't have been able to [whatever we just did]."

    In fact, I was recovering from a knee malady that, only days before, had left me unable to walk without great labor.  Fortunately, 2 injections, some fluid draining, and some high-powered oral steroids made it bearable for the trip.  Once I got there I realized that, had my knee not healed, our ENTIRE itinerary (complete with non-refundable hotels) would have been out the window.  We wouldn't have even been able to make some of the train connections for which we were scheduled, much less walk up the stairs of the Strasbourg Cathedral, etc.

    Really? A trendy expression of befuddled incredulity? Really?

    by cardinal on Thu May 26, 2011 at 12:10:48 PM PDT

  •  Charles du Gaulle airport! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541

    We had a brief stopover there on the way back from our 30th anniversary cruise (thanks to a small inheritance I'd gotten). It was awful!

    We were left on the tarmac to catch a bus to the terminal. The driver was a maniac and I almost flew out of the door when he took a corner. Luckily, a death grip on the pole saved me. At the terminal, we found we had to take another bus to our gate, and it was leaving immediately!

    After all that, we barely got out of security in time to literally run to catch the flight. No way we could have made the connection (or possibly even survived the experience) if we'd been even slightly disabled.

    "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to" ~ Lewis Carroll

    by SisTwo on Thu May 26, 2011 at 01:25:59 PM PDT

  •  there's a larger issue (0+ / 0-)

    We like to think of Europe as being advanced socially compared to us, but this is one domain where they seriously lag.

    The US is way ahead of Europe on treating the handicapped like other people, and we're also way ahead on racism and sexism as well.  This is very evident once you leave the cosmopolitan Parisian set (which includes the French media).

    •  Immigrants (0+ / 0-)

      I'm not so sure. Remember when that Klansman made it through the Louisiana primaries during GHWBush's term? If not for our single member district plurality system (first past the post in the UK), I think the US could easily support a party like the Front Nationale over here.

      Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/NewshamJ

      by JackinStL on Thu May 26, 2011 at 03:50:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm sure it could, too (0+ / 0-)

        But I'm not talking about politics.  I'm talking about everyday people and their mores and attitudes.  

        When you have conversations even with left-wingers in  France you will hear them casually say things (racist jokes, sexist remarks) that even conservative Americans would find shocking to hear (in public at least).  

        Sexism and lookism are very much tolerated.  One example: if you watch French TV, you'll notice their talk shows involve round-tables with a studio audience.  But look closely at the audience members right behind the speakers (in the front row)--- they're almost all young, attractive women.  The lower-cut the top, the better.  Women are eye candy, in the background, quiet and still.  The public stations aren't as bad about this, but they do it, too.    

        Sexual harassment at work is practically expected, and not even officially frowned upon.  Even in my experience: I started a teaching job there at a university, the director told us (not hinted, but flat out told us) it was okay to have affairs our students.  No worries about abusing our power.  Too bad I was married and I take my marriage vows seriously, eh?  :)

        Racial and ethnic discrimination are more rife than they are here, even though they're illegal.  It's because WE are more advanced about these things.  The title of this post should be "Something WE got right"  

         

  •  If I'm not mistaken, that picture of the bollards (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    luckydog

    preventing the cars from parking on the sidewalk, is of the Louvre. What do you suggest they do, rip down part of the Louvre to widen the sidewalk?

    I'm guessing you've never been to NYC and tried to navigate the subways here as a handicapped person. Some stations have five levels of escalators to get to the platform/street and sometimes the escalators don't work. And we do have the ADA legislation here. As many have said including your friend, it's just not easy to retrofit old buildings and infrastructure.  

    And a 'sidewalk cutout' is a curb cut.

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Thu May 26, 2011 at 03:56:49 PM PDT

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