Travelling independently in Paris, France gave me a real boost of confidence after I discovered their VI friendly road crossing system. When you press the button on the pelican crossing, a voice tells you what road you’re on. Then, a series of beeps will start to let you know you can cross the road. When it stops you know it’s no longer safe to cross.
Watch the YouTube video to see me and my partner demonstrate how the pelican crossing works in Paris.
My time in the French capital was lovely, and my family and I managed to visit as much as we could squeeze in during our brief stay. We took a riverboat cruise along the River Seine which provided commentary in English, and we visited many tourist attractions including the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre Museum.
The Louvre Museum allows people with disabilities and their carers to gain access for free. Children under 18 years of age also don’t pay.
Since my Year 11 school photo, my family and friends would say I look like the ‘Mona Lisa’ painting, which is on permanent display at the Louvre. So I was ecstatic when the museum staff said I could go past the crowds and barriers surrounding the painting to take a closer look at it, which is a privilege reserved for vision impaired visitors.
Moreover, it was a dream come true to visit the Eiffel Tower. My family would describe the tower and the surrounding scenery for me, but I managed to see it for myself whilst travelling on the night tour bus. It looked stunning all illuminated up against the night sky, truly magical!
After visiting Paris we embarked on a road trip to a small town called Nantes, west of France, to attend a family wedding. We passed several quiet towns before finally arriving. The wedding had a Bollywood theme, and the ceremony took place in a grand French garden. It was an occasion that I shall always remember. During the wedding reception I even tried some traditional French cheeses along with other native dishes, which is an experience in itself.
In conclusion, I found France to be very accessible for the blind and partially sighted. Getting around and communicating with local people wasn’t difficult at all. The smartphone app ‘Google Translate’ lets you take a photo of foreign words and converts it into English text, which can also be spoken out aloud. This helped a lot when trying to read menus. Also, my eldest daughter, who is keen on practicing the French language, brought along her French phrase book which came in handy all the time. The French people we met were very friendly and keen to help, which made our holiday stress-free and overall an enjoyable experience.
Written by Bhavini Makwana