“It would be a real problem not to keep this promise,” said former Paralympic champion Michaël Jérémiasz.

2024-01-05 08:18:43

Home Health Disability

Last April, the Head of State announced the full reimbursement of wheelchairs in 2024, with a view to the Paris Paralympic Games. “We are not talking about luxury. This is what allows us to be full citizens,” explains Michaël Jérémiasz, the former Paralympic champion.

Published on 05/01/2024 09:18

Reading time: 4 min A person in a wheelchair in Monaco, December 6, 2023 (illustrative photo). (JEAN FRANÇOIS OTTONELLO / MAXPPP)

In 2024, in view of the Paralympic Games organized in Paris, wheelchairs will be 100% reimbursed. Eight months later, the realization of this announcement by Emmanuel Macron made on April 26, 2023 during the National Disability Conference is impatiently awaited by people with disabilities. “It would be a real problem not to keep this promise”estimated Michaël Jérémiasz Friday January 5 on franceinfo.

According to the former Paralympic wheelchair tennis athlete, now chef de mission of the French Paralympic team at the Paris 2024 Games, “reimbursing 60,000 chairs represents a drop in the bucket in the Social Security budget”.

franceinfo: Emmanuel Macron had promised the chairs 100% reimbursed in 2024. 60 000 people are affected in France. For the moment, nothing concrete. Do you imagine that this promise cannot be kept?

Michaël Jérémiasz: I don’t see how. It would be a real problem not to keep this promise. It’s an Olympic and Paralympic year, funds have been released. In reality, 80% of wheelchair users are elderly and often with rental chairs. Reimbursing 60,000 chairs is a drop in the bucket in the Social Security budget.

“Today, it’s not a question of money, it’s a question of political commitment, of maintaining it and giving the teams the means to put it in place.”

Michaël Jérémiasz, former Paralympic champion

at franceinfo

It’s a nomenclature issue so that the chairs are referenced, so that we control the prices a little. An electric wheelchair costs more than 30,000 euros. There is no control. There is no French sector. We have to buy all of our wheelchairs abroad. We’re not talking about luxury, we’re not tuning our wheelchairs. This is what allows us to be full citizens and to be autonomous in the city. This is a prerequisite if we want to become taxpayers like others.

Is there a lack of political will?

I recently spoke with the France Handicap teams who have been working on this for three years. It takes a lot of time because you have to meet the manufacturers. We need to work with user associations to know exactly what we are talking about. Today, a tailor-made manual wheelchair, with lightweight materials to be able to go up and down sidewalks, (…) costs more than 7,000 euros. My social security and my mutual insurance company, every five years, reimburse me around 1,500 to 3,000 euros for a wheelchair. Today, when you are below the poverty line with only the disabled adult allowance which is 900 euros and you cannot afford mutual insurance, you make Leetchi pots of money.

There is also a big promise, 1.5 billion euros for accessibility. The construction site is enormous. Accessibility is very limited. The president has set the Paris 2024 Games as a perspective. Except that time passes and we wonder if we haven’t missed this issue a little.

I would not say that we have missed this issue. I think we’re behind schedule. When we knew that we had the Games and that we were going to use them as an accelerator, because there are more resources invested, there is a change of outlook… The problem is that we got there a little late. The acceleration of the accessibility project has been a little intensified for two or three years. We should have done it seven or eight years ago, when we won the Games.

It was perhaps the opportunity to make Paris truly accessible. According to the latest figures from Île-de-France Mobilités, 9% of the metro is currently accessible. That’s 27 stations. It’s not much.

It’s 9% because there is Greater Paris. In my day it was 3%. Grand Paris, in fact, like any new construction, is accessible. For me, the metro is a collective failure, because there was no political will to do anything about the metro. Today, underground transport is inaccessible to people in wheelchairs in Paris. Except that we know that it is the most ecological, most economical and fastest mobility solution for any person. (…) On the question of transport, there have been solutions. There are obviously new constructions. There will be transport systems during the Olympic and Paralympic Games which will connect the different sites which are all accessible. So, it will be much better than if we had not had the Games. But it is not satisfactory in 2024 that people do not have the same rights and the same freedoms as able-bodied people.

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