We live in troublesome times. Austerity is the name of the game. Governments tell us it is good for the economy and good for us. But that's not a universal view and France's new president, Monsieur Hollande, says that austerity is bad and counter-productive. We wait to see what he will actually do about it.
In the meantime, the people who are most disadvantaged - by lack of income or training, and by disabilities of various kinds - can be those who suffer most when public expenditure is cut. It is remarkable then, in this time of recession and deprivation, that Dieppe manages to pursue with greater effort than ever, programmes to help handicapped people fulfil their lives.
In these cash-strapped times, Dieppe council has set up a commission dedicated to providing greater accessibility to handicapped people in their daily lives. Parents of handicapped children will be among those invited to join the commission.
Initiatives already taken include the publication of an edition in braille of the municipal journal, Journal de Bord, and the purchase of specially adapted games for nursery schools. Mayor Sébastien Jumel announced last week that all social housing must be accessible to those with reduced mobility, to avoid the shock of tenants being moved from the surroundings they know.
"Giving autonomy to people of reduced mobility has been the object of many initiative over the past four years," said the Mayor. These have included lowering pavement levels, increasing disabled parking places, adapting bus stops and installing voice messages at a some pedestrian crossings. Jumel regretted only that the the law promoting equality of opportunities to the handicapped was not supported by an additional national budget.
There is progress, too, on the beach, made accessible to all between 30 June and 2 September, with a carpet laid over the forbidding pebbles right to the edge of the water. A beach cabin has been allotted to accommodate wheelchairs, where staff will be on duty to offer also the use of two special pedal chairs for use in the sea.
All through the year, handicapped people can access the warmed-water swimming pool on the seafront, with the aid of a contraption for the purpose. Rather like the harness that cavalry officers of old had to carry them aloft and plant them on the backs of their steeds.
On the cultural front, Dieppe Ville d'Art et d'Histoire - which organises visits of historical places in the town - is geared up to provide for handicapped visitors, and the mediathèque, in the Centre Jean Renoir near the station, is well equipped. Also, there is a lift between floors at the Cité de la Mer, where, in addition, handicapped visitors pay 6 euros instead of 7 euros for admission.
Unfortunately, the Château Musée, which houses so many treasures, has only a ramp to allow access to the ground floor with its maritime exhibits. When the magnificent castle was built half a millennium ago, nobody was thinking about access for those who are not handy on their pins.
On the employment front today, Dieppe wins good marks. The law states that councils should provide 6% of municipal posts to handicapped employees - or be fined. Dieppe achieves 6.8%, and therefore no fine. The previous council paid the fine for non-observance of the law. So virtue now rewarded, and a bit of saving there.
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