Recently I had a conversation with a client about an exciting new restaurant. This lively, classy restaurant/bar offered delicious and healthy food with an outgoing, interesting atmosphere. As I continued to rant and rave about this impressive find, I advised my client who uses a wheelchair to check this place out. Unfortunately, after making the suggestion, I remembered the 30 step hike up-stairs I took to get into this restaurant, and I couldn’t recall an elevator. I rationalised that this restaurant must have an elevator in order to have access for those who need it.
This sparked a sad and frustrating topic of conversation. My client had experienced this dilemma on many occasions and began to enlighten me about his personal restaurant horror stories. Generally when planning to experience a new restaurant, he would call ahead to be sure of the accessibility; however, not everyone in the service industry is aware of the specific needs of those in a wheelchair. He has experienced many makeshift ramps, one which he chose not to use due to the incredibly dangerous angle. Many places are very crowded which makes one uncomfortable and self-conscience about “constantly being in the way.” Another client had experienced an entire evening in a pub feeling anxious and stressed over the lack of wheelchair accessibility in the bathroom. Sadly the night ended in embarrassment and a wet lap for this client.
Since hearing these stories I have become more observant for wheelchair accessibility in restaurants. It’s disheartening to notice many places that my clients are not able to have a comfortable or enjoyable experience due to wheelchair inaccessibility! In this day and age, every public venue should have accessibility to washrooms that accommodate everyone. It’s 2013 people, every restaurant should have safe and reliable accessibility, it’s called basic human rights!
I’ve researched a blog called Access TO which focuses on wheelchair accessible places in the GTA. Each entry reviews restaurants or cafes that have been thoroughly investigated on its accessibility for those with less mobility and using wheelchairs. Generally each blog post has the name and address of the place and detailed explanation of the accessibility, including measurements of doorways and bathroom stalls, parking and many other important details. The writer has even included attached reviews of the restaurant so one can do further investigation online prior to venturing to the restaurant. This website offers a trustworthy option for discovering exciting, delicious restaurants that are also accommodating for all.
Restaurant owners and workers should consider the challenge it can be for those in wheelchairs to use their venues comfortably and with confidence and make changes if necessary to promote this. Clearly more emphasis, acknowledgement and advocacy are needed to make all public areas more accessible for everyone to enjoy!
Michelle Wolfe, RMT