Enabling the Disabled
What is the world coming to? I’m really struggling with the sheer selfishness and ignorance of the average person.
We have an American client who Monday signed the Promesse de Vente (final deed) on a ground level property in Le Marais that would be easily transformed to accommodate her disabled daughter will visit from time to time with her wheelchair. The property was specifically chosen for this reason, as the only modification necessary, other than internal changes to facilitate the wheelchair, is to re-open a door onto the courtyard that was at some previous time converted into a window. It also means creating a small stone path to that door and moving one plant about one-and-a-half feet.
With designer Martine di Mattéo and her team, including an architect with whom we’ve worked on many projects, Nicole Champagnol, the changes seemed simple enough with minimal disturbance to the building. Nicole was the one who brilliantly realized the possibility of the reconversion of the window to a door. We all assumed that getting permission would not be difficult in today’s world where there is so much action to alleviate and eliminate discrimination against the disabled, as well as accommodate them.
The annual Assemblée Générale (meeting) of the copropriété (homeowners association) took place yesterday during which the request for the change was to be discussed and voted. Our client would not have had the vote or right to submit the plans if the purchase had not taken place prior to the meeting, although it would have been possible with proxy by the seller. The timing worked in her favor.
Nicole, with all the plans in tow attended with our client, to explain the plan that would not affect anything for the building, nor cost them anything. Even the path and the door would mirror what is on the other side of the courtyard, balancing it, in effect and for good looks.
Nicole called just after the meeting. “Bad news, Adrian. The other owners were horrible. I was ashamed to be French.”
According to both Nicole and the new owner, the other owners, old and young alike, were unforgiving in their overwhelming decision to disallow her request. Their lack of understanding and narrow, closed-minded attitude was shocking.
“Madame, rue des Tournelles is not a place for the handicapped.”
These were their words, while we already know that the word “handicapped” is ‘politically incorrect.'”Disabled” is a better choice according to general guidelines for talking about disability — see traponline.com/al2.pdf.
“You’ve been badly advised. You should sell the apartment and purchase one in another district where modern buildings can accommodate your daughter. You will never get permission.”
It was transparent that they don’t want a handicapped person in their building, in their lives, or even others for whom the ground-level apartment might be a blessing. They wouldn’t want to live with the guilt of having such a person around them who might put ‘misery’ in their faces.
None of us dreamed they would be so heartless, but this morning I was jolted into reality by a French friend who heard only tidbits of the story and immediately understood something we Americans might not. She said:
“They don’t know her. There is likely one person who is stirring it up for everyone.” (We know this to be true!) On top of that, they fear foreigners who might bring guests, transients and renters. She needs to get to know each and every person in the building and plead her case. Once they get to know her, in the end she will win.”
Yes, the case can be battled and we’ll all help her to fight and win on behalf of her daughter and all those who are physically disabled. Of course, we’re looking for ways of getting legal assistance with minimal expense. She already has a meeting next week with a Human Rights Defender — a “défonceur des droits” (or “défenseur des droits” — both spellings seem to be correct [defenseurdesdroits.fr/en/]) And the plans will be submitted to the city for their approval to override the association’s decision.
In the U.S. Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) — “a wide-ranging civil rights law that is intended to protect against discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. In addition, unlike the Civil Rights Act, the ADA also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations.” (Wikipedia.org)
In France and Europe, the Disability Act 2005 placed a statutory obligation on public service providers to support access to services and facilities for people with disabilities. Under the Act, people with disabilities are entitled to:
* Have their health and educational needs assessed.
* Have individual service statements drawn up, setting out what services they should get.
* Access independent complaints and appeals procedures.
* Access public buildings and public service employment.
In France a few years ago there were three ‘landmark’ films devoted to the disabled: Intouchables (Untouchables) – the story of a wheelchair-using aristocrat and his ex-convict care-taker; De Rouille et D’Os, in which Marion Cotillard plays a killer whale trainer who has her legs amputated after an accident; and Hasta La Vista, a quasi comedy about three young men -– one blind, one in a wheelchair and a third who is completely paralyzed -– on a trip to Spain to lose their virginity. The organization at Handicap.fr claims the situation is improving for France’s five million people with disabilities…but only slowly.
This is evidence that they certainly haven’t gone far enough! Yes, the other owners at the rue des Tournelles building (except for one lone man who defended the new owner) should be ashamed of themselves…and they will be by the time we get through with them!
If you have any information that might help her case, or any contacts in the city of Paris or the press that might make a difference, do not hesitate to email us at [email protected]
Three special alerts:
1. Getting Down and Dirty in Dallas!
Friends in and around Dallas, Texas…I invite you to join me and Candy Evans of Candy’s Dirt for a special Staff Meeting and Open House on June 9th at one of Dallas’ most luxurious homes…where I will be the Guest Speaker! This 13,000 square foot home sets the stage with the flavor of a French château for an interactive keynote speech titled, “Living and Investing in France.”
The 40-minute presentation will cover both ownership and rental scenarios, and take a real look at the differences in the real estate industry in the U.S. vs France, including answering the age-old question, “What do I get for my money?” followed by a Q&A. I will be available throughout the event to speak with attendees on an individual basis.
Both real estate professionals and potential investors are welcome!
Date: Thursday, June 9th
Time: Begins at 5:30 p.m. with Presentation at 6:30 p.m.
Location: 9818 Hathaway in Old Preston Hollow, Dallas
For more information about the home with photos and video tour, visit Hathaway in Old Preston Hollow.
Be sure to RSVP to Jon Anderson: [email protected]
2. Ben Marcus of the House Hunters International production team will be in Paris for the Euro Cup is looking for a location with a a balcony or terrace overlooking the Champ de Mars to be rented from June 10th to July 5th to be used solely for the camera crew of three from which they can film with such a great view, but not for accommodations. If you know of such a spot, please contact Ben Marcus, +33 6 03 00 91 06, or email at [email protected]
3. Janet Hulstrand gave us a real insider’s view of the region of the Aube, the southern part of Champagne during yesterday’s Après Midi. Read all about it!
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
(with Janet Hulstrand)
P.S. House Hunters International will sometimes re-air episodes I’ve taped for them. Now they have posted some of the full episodes to their site so that you can view them at your leisure–with no commercials! Please have a look at Planning a Furture in Paris