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Disability fuels new experiences and everyone does things their way. Just take the Fonseranes 9 Locks in Béziers.
Myriam and Pierre arrived at the Fonseranes 9 Locks car park on the last morning in June. This bubbly, funny couple with a love for life describe themselves as “a pair of para-able adventurers with a firm belief in travel for everyone!” Basically, “you can always do more and go further than you think” Pierre says with a glowing smile. He is the “disabled” half of the “para-able” couple: his youth was torn apart by the terrible events at the Bataclan.
But his big personality won out: he may be paraplegic but he won’t let that stop him. He and Myriam put their youthful energy and sense of “living in the moment” into creating a whole new life for themselves and devoting it to one of their passions: travel. They travel the world and put their videos, articles, photographs and maps on their blog funded by partnerships and conferences. Their adventures and experiences all go on Facebook and Instagram too to help other disabled people.
“inspire you, advise you, help you lose your inhibitions and spark your imagination”
So during a trip to Occitanie, co-produced by the Region and Département, here they are at the 9 locks in Béziers: happy to be in the sunshine, staggered by the size and beauty of the monument and keeping an eye on the facilities. The site’s manager, the Tourist Board, is keen to hear their thoughts. It may be approved as disabled-friendly by Tourisme & Handicap but is ticking all the boxes enough to provide a place that really is suitable and comfortable for disabled visitors? Myriam and Pierre quietly scrutinised everything:
– access to the car park, Visitor Centre, shop, ramp into the screening room (immersive cinema) and movement around the site
– 9 Locks slope descent, stop on bridge after going up the lift
– arrival at the restaurant, space between tables and space to move a wheelchair, ramp and space to leave wheelchairs etc. They went over everything with a fine-tooth comb “as if nothing had happened”. In the end, Pierre gave his verdict:
“honestly, it’s great. I’m amazed by the standard of the facilities, spaces and how much thought has gone into accessibility.”
He’s not joking either. A few days after their trip, they posted a map with the “9 locks top tips-promotions” for their readers on their blog.
We can’t wait for them to come back and try out the disabled facilities at the Orpellières Visitor Centre in Sérignan-Plage or the Medieval Tower in Valros (approved for all types of disability). They’re probably going to struggle to meet the sixty-odd tourism professionals in Béziers Méditerranée that have adapted their structures to really provide “holidays for everyone.” Thirty or so places to stay (hotels, campsites, holiday homes) provide at least one disabled option; restaurants in Béziers, Sérignan, Villeneuve-lès-Béziers and Valros are disabled-friendly along with the local beaches, cinemas, several museums, theatres, stadiums, tourist attractions and more that have a warm welcome in store if you want to take a leaf out of Pierre and Myriam’s book!