Google Street View; a wheelchair user’s friend.

Some time ago, Helen and i went to Paris to see a couple of our musician friends play in a small venue by the Bastille. Google Street View already existed at the time, but I didn’t think to use it to check out the venue beforehand because our friends assured us that it was wheelchair accessible. They meant well but when we got to the little bar where our friends were going to play, we discovered that it was semi-subterranean, with six very steep steps leading down from the front door at street level into the main room. There was no step between the sidewalk and the door, which I think is what made our friends believe that it was accessible, but I guess that the six steps that came after didn’t register in their assessment.

I guess one really does have to be in a wheelchair, or in a relationship with someone in a wheelchair to really understand what accessible means and what to look for, because this wasn’t the only time that we’ve been assured that a restaurant or bar or hotel is accessible, only to arrive and discover two or three steps between the sidewalk and the door.

Nowadays, that’s not a problem, because almost anywhere that we want to go has been covered by the Street View team at Google, and as long as  have the address I can take a virtual trip to check out the doorway. Not only that, but if we are going by foot/wheel, in just a few minutes i can check our route to make sure that there are no obstacles and which way is the best way to get there, all before we even leave the flat.

The above mentioned venue in Paris ( Pakito’s at 15 rue Daval 75011 Paris if you want to see for yourself on Street View. It’s the place with the red trim ) might have been a little trickier, because from the street it looks ok, no steps, easy access from the sidewalk, but then if one looks a little more closely, the windows are suspiciously low to the ground for a place that is accommodating patrons at street level. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it then, but the apparent height of the room in relation to the street is something I make sure to check now as well as looking for any steps.

Even though we couldn’t get in and see our friends play, the night was not a total loss. We were in Paris; a city we both love and we had the whole night ahead of us. We wandered around for a bit and found a delightful, accessible (mostly…part of the dining room is down a few steps) restaurant right around the corner ( Chez Oscar, 11-13 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75004 Paris) where we had a lovely meal with some of the best mashed potatoes either of us have ever tasted.

I did learn an important lesson on that trip as well. Google Street View is our friend.

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