Podcast. Arthur Baucheron: “When you’re in a wheelchair, Paris is merciless”

His TikTok account has more than 51 million likes and 800,000 subscribers, his Instagram account almost 100,000. We see him on television, we listen to him on the radio, we read him in the press. In November 2021, he was even invited to the Elysée by Gabriel Attal, met Emmanuel Macron, and had lunch with the first lady. In 2022, he publishes a book, Wheels on Earth, Head in the Stars (First, 200 p., €16.95) to talk about his daily life as a 19-year-old in a wheelchair from an early age. In the World podcast “Rebound, living with the handicap”produced in partnership with the‘Agefiph, Tiktoker Arthur Baucheron confides, at the microphone of journalist Isabelle Hennebelle. This testimony is part As part of season 2 of this podcast, broadcast on the occasion of the European Disability Employment Week.

Your bio on TikTok reads: “A guy in a wheel chair trying to change people’s minds”. Why are you in a wheelchair?

I have been in a chair since the age of 18 months due to a spinal amyotrophy type 2. It is a neuromuscular disease that weakens my muscles. I just don’t have enough strength to walk.

On a day-to-day basis, what is your level of autonomy?

I am lucky to live in Bordeaux, in the city center. My parents have chosen to live there precisely so that I do not have all the problems of transport, accessibility problems. At least I’m in the center and I have access to everything, when I want to go out; it is true that on this point, I have a lot of luck.

Read also: Disability takes center stage on TikTok

You write in your book that you need help: to wash, dress, turn at night, on several occasions, in your bed. So you need someone who is always by your side?

I’m lucky to have been really well surrounded, always: my parents have always taken care of me. They never asked for outside help, to which we would be entitled. I’ve been used to my parents putting me to bed at night, bathing me, taking me to the bathroom…everything I can’t do on my own every day. I know that it does not happen at all the same in many cases.

You make your difficulties a driver of commitment. You feel, and I quote you, like an “ambassador of difference”. Why this daily struggle?

Quite simply because I have heard a lot of prejudices about people with disabilities. I want that to change and that we see these people as people who are totally integrated into society. By adapting, of course, a few small things, we could include them as much as possible.

I quote: “I’ve been staring at me for years as I cruise the streets of my city at the controls of my racing car. That, at best, people don’t know when I want to get on a crowded tram and at worst they tell me: “You just have to stay at home.” And there’s also that woman you bumped into one day when you were backing up in your wheelchair on a crowded tram. She told you that you just had to “not be handicapped”. And the worst part is that no one came to your defense…

Everyone was a little bit in shock and no one reacted. And it’s true that it was the first time that I had faced something so violent. Perhaps not having 100% confidence in myself, I did not have the reflex to rebel. But it’s true that it’s a shock when it happens. Afterwards, we think about it, we redo the scene. It’s a bit traumatic, you have to have your shoulders.

For several years, you have successfully invested in social networks, and in particular TikTok, but you believe that people with disabilities do not have enough visibility, in the public space as in the media. That’s right ?

The CSA [Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel] noted, in 2020, 0.6% of people with disabilities present on television. That says everything! Apart from the movie Untouchables, I could never really find myself in a film or in a TV presenter.

Disability remains the first ground of discrimination. That is the Defender of Rights who says so. You recall that, out of 700,000 children who are victims of school bullying, we find in the front line children with disabilities. What could be done to improve this situation?

I think, quite simply, that it could go through raising awareness from an early age. For example, by organizing meetings with people with disabilities in the classrooms. By explaining to the students that a disability is not necessarily mental, that there are many others. Me, when I arrived in class the first day, for the start of the school year, everyone wondered: “Is he paralyzed? Does he have a mental problem? » There were so many questions that I was a bit withdrawn compared to the rest of the class. Awareness, I think, is therefore the most important. Well, that would be a nice thing to do.

You are now a communication student in Bordeaux. Is it easy to get to class, just on a practical level?

This year, I took a year off to focus on my projects. But yes, it’s easy with the tram, except during rush hour, of course, when I have to watch three or four crowded trams pass before I can go up. But in terms of accessibility, Bordeaux has improved a lot and I don’t have too much difficulty getting around.

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Precisely, regarding travel, what is, beyond what we have just said, your daily life in terms of accessibility? Do you have a grudge, in particular, against elevators and against the SNCF?

Exactly. I had this misfortune, from a very young age, of being stuck inside elevators, and that created a kind of claustrophobia in me, a phobia of elevators. It makes people laugh when I talk to them about it, but frankly, it’s annoying! As for the SNCF, when you’re in a wheelchair, you have to call on a service called Accès Plus, so that someone from the SNCF takes out the board that gives you access to the train. But you can’t take a train if you haven’t booked your ticket at least 48 hours in advance. I take that as a form of discrimination, because if I want to spend a weekend with my friends, not far from the Basque Country, for example, well, I can’t decide that overnight. I will be denied access to the train. In 2022, I think it’s limited.

You adore Paris, but you notice, I quote you: “When you are in a wheelchair, this city is merciless. ” That’s to say ?

Getting around is impossible by metro: you have to take a taxi or bus, which takes much longer than the metro, for example. And then it’s not always very recent buses, the ramp doesn’t always work. And I don’t necessarily have the means to take a taxi for every trip I make in a day. It’s a big budget.

You say that France is a thousand years behind Florida in terms of accessibility. How’s it going over there?

People with disabilities are really considered as people in their own right. For example, there, people with disabilities don’t have priority in the shops, but they have access to everything. All buildings and shops are accessible with a ramp at the entrance.

How do you envision your professional future? You share, in your book, your projects in communication, comedy, why not within the government? Do you forbid yourself any dreams?

That’s it. I think a little about several tracks. And then I also let time move on and see what can happen to me. There are lots of things that interest me. I would love to do an adventure show… I’m sure there are great things to come.

What do you think can be done to make the world of work more inclusive?

First, be based on skills and not on disability. Then, try to adapt the premises as much as possible to everyone. It is true that I don’t see many people with disabilities in everyday life. There is this concept that I discovered in Bordeaux and which is present in several cities: the Joyful Cafés, which employ people with disabilities. I think it’s a great initiative.

You say that if you were president, rather than imposing quotas for people with disabilities in companies, you would ask every French person to spend a day in immersion with a person with a disability. So why do the quotas ultimately remain insufficient?

What I wanted to say is that you really have to realize the daily life of a disabled person. Lots of small problems were resolved, if only the elevator breakdowns. At the bottom of my house, for example, there is a supermarket with a small elevator to go from one level to another. It’s been out of service for a year and a half. If ever there is a check, they will say that the elevator will be fixed very quickly and they will not have any trouble…

And apart from this question of quotas, what would be the first measure you would like to take to help people with disabilities?

I’m going to repeat myself, but I think it’s at the level of the SNCF that I would intervene, because that’s what ruins my daily life the most. Me, I decided to move, to live, to often go to Paris, because I love this city. I do not feel ready to live in Paris yet because it is my parents who have taken care of me since I was born, and I have not imagined myself alone overnight in an apartment with external people who come help me. But in the meantime, I go back and forth to Paris and I would like to be able to do them with much more ease.

Are there expressions, uses to rectify in everyday vocabulary when we talk about disability?

I think it’s a debate. Sometimes I say “disabled people”, but sometimes I say “people with disabilities”. I have a friend who is sensitive on this subject, who prefers the second formulation to describe her, and I understand, I agree with her.

What advice would you give to another young person, like you, with a disability, who wants to build their professional life as well as possible?

I would tell him that it’s not going to be easy and that he’s going to have to scramble, try as hard as possible to try to trace his path, to be brave, and to have guts and nerve too.

Read also From school to university, the difficult journey of young people with disabilities

And not to close any doors?

Not to close any door because everything is possible, everything is adaptable. Even if there are galleys, everything is possible.

What is the best advice you have ever received regarding disability?

Not to worry about it and to act as if I was not disabled. Sometimes there are things that bring me back to the reality of the armchair, but in any case, the best advice to follow is to try to forget that and live as normally as possible with your loved ones.

Also listen “Rebond”, a podcast to talk about the relationship to disability

“Rebound, living with disability” highlights testimonials from personalities affected directly or indirectly by disability (physical, psychological, linked to an illness, an accident, affecting a loved one or oneself) and having consequences on everyday life. After a season 1 rich with a dozen testimonialsfind season 2 on the occasion of the European Disability Employment Week (from November 14 to 20, 2022).

“Rebound, living with disability” a podcast produced by The world, in partnership with Agefiph. An episode written and hosted by Isabelle Hennebelle. Producer: Josefa Lopez for The world. Production and editing: Eyeshot. Transcript: Caroline Andrieu. Graphic identity: Kenza Mezouar, Mélina Zerbib. Partnership: Sonia Jouneau, Victoire Bounine.

Podcast. Arthur Baucheron: “When you’re in a wheelchair, Paris is merciless”