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Conference on Disability pushes for inclusivity in France

Ajutila exhibition by photographer Hormoz on sexuality and disabilty.
Ajutila exhibition by photographer Hormoz on sexuality and disabilty. (Anne Bernas/RFI)

The 5th National Conference on Disability is being chaired by French President Emmanuel Macron today, promising a series of measures to facilitate the lives of the 12 million disabled people living in France.


President Emmanuel Macron is calling for a country-wide mobilisation for the disabled people living in France.

He has promised that proposed measures will be implemented before the end of his mandate in 2022.

One of them consists of enabling a further 60,000 disabled children to access education within the next two years. There are currently over 360,000 disabled children in the French school system.

The government has also promised a dedicated phone support number to facilitate disabled people in dealing with administrative procedures.

According to Arnaud de Broca, the head of the umbrella association Handicaps, there is still much to be done for people living with disabilities in France. Two million handicapped people live below the poverty line.

He added that 15 years after the French law on equal rights for disabled people was voted, the lives of most of them "has not fundamentally changed".

Around 500 families leave France for Belgium each year because they cannot find accomodation for people with disabilities. The 6,500 adults and 1,500 children who are cared for in Belgium cost half a billion euros to the French state. The government promises the creation of 6,000 more housing facilities for the disabled.

Access to public transport is another problem as well as access to subsidies whose rates differ from one French department to another. Disabled adults in France receive 900 euros per month from the government. Alain Rochon, chairman of APF France Handicap, says that it is not enough.

Around 500 people are expected at the Elysées Palace for the National Disability Conference. The NGOs say they expect to hear strong, concrete measures from the French president.

Sexual assistance for disabled

The French government is looking into the issue of sexual assistance for disabled people. This activity is prohibited in France while being recognised in other European countries such as Germany, Switzerland or Denmark.

In France, if training people in sexual assistance towards disabled people is legal, one cannot legally practice such an activity.

Sophie Cluzel, from the French Prime Minister's office, wrote to the French National Ethics Committee about the need to look into the sexual rights of the disabled and re-opening the debate on sexual assitance.

"We are not talking about prostitution. This is a ridiculous notion. Sexual assistance for people with disabilities exist in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. Let's go and see how they are trained," said Cluzel to Europe 1 radio.

The issue was tabled in 2013 under the Hollande government but both then Health minister, Roselyne Bachelot, and the National Ethics Committee dismissed it. Cluzel believes that French society has "matured" now and might have a different outlook on sex and people with disabilities.

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