If you are disabled then you can probably agree that leaving your house and going anywhere can be very stressful because of inaccessibility. Many places claim they are accessible when there not and it’s almost pointless to call and ask if they are accessible because almost always will they say yes even if the only thing accessible about your business is that you can get through the doorway. Many places are afraid you will report them to the ADA so even if they aren’t accessible they will tell you that they are which is stupid because you will find out sooner or later. Sometimes businesses do try to be accessible but they don’t know what it really means to be accessible and legitimately thinks that accessibility ends at ramps. Restaurants are one of those places that tend to be very inaccessible and although I don’t think all restaurants are trying to drive away their disabled customers you are when you don’t prioritize accessibility or at least make an effort to make it as easy as possible for disabled people. Going out to eat can be very stressful for disabled people because of inaccessibility and if you are a restaurant owner and want to make your business as accessible as possible so disabled people want to come back here are a few things you might need to change to better serve the disabled community.
Don’t assume everyone is that annoying customer–There is always going to be that one customer that has certain seating preferences are annoying and demand to be moved. Did you know that not always are customers trying to be annoying but sometimes they have an invisible disability such as a migraine or headache disorder and need to be moved to avoid a major attack? Sitting someone who has a migraine disorder next to the kitchen or under some vent could trigger them and they may ask to move. I personally have a problem if I am sat next to the kitchen or underneath an air vent because some scents bother me and for some reason getting too cold also is a trigger. Sometimes if you are busy its is not always possible but if it can make the difference between bearable and unbearable pain. Migraineurs will appreciate it if you are able to move us without complaining to your coworkers that we are that customer because we aren’t trying to be. Bearable pain is all we strive for and unfortunately, it can be difficult when eating out but it can be made easier if we are able to sit somewhere that doesn’t have as many of our triggers.
Make it easy to walk in- If a disabled person has to walk up a flight of stairs and there is not a ramp to be had then you are not accessible. How do you expect disabled people that cannot walk up steps or have limited mobility and have a very difficult time doing so? Many electric wheelchairs weigh over 350 pounds and you can’t just carry them up a few steps so what are disabled people supposed to do just leave? Sometimes in these situations, we have to because we can’t get inside but if restaurants would just get ramp it would be so much easier for disabled people to walk inside and we wouldn’t have to find another alternative. Disabled people have no control over what they can and cannot do and it isn’t fair that you punish them by making it so they can’t easily access them and have to walk away from a restaurant we were looking forward to enjoying.
Have a working elevator at all times- I understand than maintaining an elevator can be expensive but when you are in a two-story building and don’t have a working elevator you are driving away all disabled customers that can’t walk up the stairs so it shouldn’t be optional but needs to be working at all times. If you want to be considered even somewhat accessible make sure that if your restaurant is on the second floor your elevator is always working because if it’s not your disabled customer will not be able to get to and be driven away. It shouldn’t take three people to get inside a building and if there are too many obstacles and disabled people can’t enter your restaurant as easily as an abled person the likelihood of them returning is very slim. You have control of whether or not you make your business accessible and some businesses just choose not to but disabled people don’t have that choice of getting up and walking up the stairs. Accessibility should not be a choice and if you can’t afford the maintenance of an elevator then move to a smaller building!
Don’t lie about your accessibility- It is almost pointless to call restaurants and ask if they are accessible because they will almost always give you a definite yes even if they are so far from it. I went out to eat at a restaurant but I knew it was a two-story building so I asked if they had an elevator. I knew it was a two-story building and what I wanted to know was not only did you have one but is it working? The employee told me yes we have one but what they had left out was that it was out of service. Disabled people call to ask not only do you have an elevator but is it working because it is useless to us if it’s not. How do you expect a disabled person who can’t walk to get to the second floor with an elevator that is out of service? If it’s out of service just tell us that because it will save us time from wasting a trip or going somewhere we can’t even get into and just end up turning around. Most people will be irritated if your not accessible and will never give you any business but they won’t report you to the ADA to serve a point like most people think disabled people do when businesses aren’t accessible. As long as you aren’t doing something totally wrong then we often will ignore it so be honest about your accessibility because there is nothing more frustrating than being told your accessible when your not. We could be spending our time looking for places that actually are accessible instead of going to places that we think are because that’s what they say.
Have signs for wet floors- I have gone to many restaurants and have had a total wipeout or gotten pretty close to one because the floor was wet and there was no warning. When you have a physical disability you don’t have as much control to brace your fall so when you are going down then your going down and there is nothing you can do to stop yourself. If you know something is wet you will be a little careful because now your aware but many restaurants don’t make you aware of that and you figure these things out when it’s too late. If restaurants made it a priority to put signs out when the floor was wet it would help people with physical disabilities prevent more falls before they happen because it will make them more aware when something is slippery and to be more careful.
Give wheelchair users more room- Abled people might be uncomfortable in a teeny tiny space but if you are a wheelchair user you can’t make it work and need more space to back in and out. Some restaurants are pretty good at giving wheelchair users enough space but sometimes restaurants don’t understand and think that if they give you just enough space you can make it work. Give wheelchair users a little more space than an abled person so they don’t have to worry about being stuck or causing a scene just to get out. The only people that might be able to back out with just enough space are those who do it all the time but everyone else won’t have as easy of a time and will probably crash trying to get out or might need help doing it.
Have lighter glassware- If you have a disability like Muscular Dystrophy you will be unable to lift anything much more than three pounds. Some restaurants have some pretty light glassware and it makes it easier for people with these disabilities to move cups or lift them but some do not and they have such a hard time taking a drink or lifting anything at all. Getting lighter glassware might not always be an option and if it isn’t placing dishes directly in front of disabled people is helpful because not always will they be able to reach and lift something that is a few feet away. There is nothing more frustrating than when servers place dishes a few feet away and you can’t get to it because you don’t have the strength to reach and lift a regular-sized bowl like your friends do.
There is more to accessibility than just ramps and if you think it ends there talking with a disabled person might open your eyes because there is so much to learn! Many restaurant owners don’t know what it means to be accessible and think that accessibility ends at being able to walk through the doorway. Accessibility does not end at ramps and if the only thing accessible about your business is your front door then disabled people will not consider you an accessible business. If a disabled person cannot get through your front door then you are for sure are not accessible but there is so much more to accessibility than just ramps and if you can’t prioritize that you will drive away all your disabled customers. Restaurants should be prioritizing accessibility and some of them try but many of them do not and don’t care about how accessible their business really is and unless you complain about it there will be no change. I expect restaurants to inaccessible to some extent and usually ignore it unless it is so bad it could significantly make a disabled person’s life harder or cause someone to hurt themselves. How do you think restaurants can be more accessible?