We Don’t Do Anything at 39%


Disclaimer: The attitudes, ideas, and comments in this post do not necessary reflect the opinions of Beyond Adversity or its board members, advisers, employees, volunteers, donors, or sponsors. Rich Donnovan’s article was included because it addresses a topic relevant to this blog — travel after adversity — in a humorous and thought provoking way.

Excerpt of article by Rich Donovan | disabilityHorizon

My wife (Jenn) and I decided to visit Paris for a much needed vacation. Beautiful surroundings, great food/wine, and our first bonding time away from our 15 month old son.

Imagine my surprise when I was denied access to the top of the Eiffel Tower, specifically because of my disability. I was told that due to a French/Parisian law, I was only permitted to visit the second floor. The apparent rationale is that if power was to be lost, or an emergency occur, it would be ‘difficult’ for me to walk down the 1050 stairs from the top. The tower is accessible. Elevators, lifts and ramps are all over the joint. France apparently decided altitude is dangerous for me. C’est ridicule, non?

I’m a fairly level-headed guy, so I calmly repeated my desire to a couple senior security professionals. I was given the same answer, that due to French/Parisian law and for my own safety I would not be permitted to the top, as any member of the public with 13 Euros is permitted to do. They would gladly ‘permit’ me to go to the second floor, which is 39% of the way to the top floor, even offering to comp the entry fee. How nice of them? One problem — I’ve never done anything at 39%, and wasn’t about to start now.

After the fourth denial, my wife started to cry, and this caused my head to explode. My voice was raised, yet my words were chosen carefully. We attracted a crowd, including seven security guards and three men in combat fatigues carrying German-made sub-machine guns.

I’ve visited the CN Tower in Toronto. I’ve climbed Mont St-Michel in Normandy. I’ve been to  the top of the Empire State Building in New York, Gerkin in London, and the Peace Tower in Ottawa. Jenn and I got engaged at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. I skipper 50-ft sailboats, on the open ocean. I’ve never come close to the lunacy I experienced at the Eiffel Tower, the state telling me that I cannot do something everyone else can because I walk with a wobble.

As a person with a disability, I face the attitude that I am a second-class member of society every day of my life. I expect that on the streets and in daily competition for scarce resources. I certainly did not expect this while visiting the national icon of a country that has signed international treaties celebrating human rights and the idea of equal opportunity for all.

Let me be clear, save for our Eiffel experience, I love Paris. It is a beautiful city, and its people are wonderful. That said, the situation at Eiffel Tower trumps my affection for the city.

Paris, you made my wife cry. This is not good, and you must make it right. I propose that you fly her back to Paris, first class. Put her up in the most accessible Presidential Suite in the city. Invite her to the Top of the Eiffel Tower where the Mayor of Paris will apologize for such a poor customer experience. By the way, change that law first . . . she won’t come without me.

To view the complete article written by Donovan, click here.


Click here to read another Beyond Adversity post.

Thanks to Rich Donovan for writing the article; disabilityHorizon for sharing the post; Madelaine Sayko for sharing the article with me; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible to include the pictures and text in this post.


  1. Kelly,

    Two small issues:

    1. I walk fairly well. While I won’t win a marathon any time soon, I can fly compared to those that were 4 glasses of wine deep that day. Are we now testing gait for access to public icons?

    2. The State does not get to assign levels of risk tolerance for society. While I thank you for your concern for my safely, it is my choice what I decide to risk. I look terrible in a bubble-wrap suit.

    I’m glad you enjoyed your experience. I was – and remain – disgusted.

    1. I understand your points, but there is substantial evidence even the US Government chooses our risk acceptability. You cannot join the military until a certain age, you cannot drive until a certain age, you cannot buy alcohol until a certain age, certain medication you can not buy without a prescription, cigarettes come with a surgeon general warning. I’m sure there are many other examples in the Unites States and elsewhere. I understand there is a debate about whether or no the government should make such decisions, but I just wanted to point out this is not uncommon.

  2. I personally think you are being unreasonable about this situation.
    My wheely husband and I were in Paris last month and visited the Eiffel Tower too. It’s a matter of public safety that wheelchairs are unable to go beyond the second level. If there was an emergency how would you get back down if you couldn’t use the stairs? Because the lifts wouldn’t work in case of fire. How would you feel if you delayed others from using the stairs in an emergency.
    We checked their website before we got there and it is clearly stated what the rules are.
    We enjoyed our visit and found everyone very helpful and polite.
    We were also happy to have a reduced admission for my husband and my self as his companion. It’s great that with the wheelchair, we didn’t have to wait in the queue!
    In general, I found Paris well set up for wheelchair users considering what an old city it is. The French government has done a good job of implementing measures to improve access in many of the major sights.
    Not everything can be changed around to suit wheelchair users.

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