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To be or not to be...Accessible - Here are my Questions

2018-09-25 Posted By Jenna Reed-Cote


Scenario 1: You Got Lucky

Restaurant: Hello, how may I help you? *you’re instantly put at ease by the sing-song, sweet-sounding voice*

You: Hi, is your restaurant accessible (some of you might go a step further and say “wheelchair accessible”)?

Restaurant: Of course, it’s 2018!

You: Great, thanks!

Scenario 2: You'll have bad times, but it'll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren't paying attention to. (+50 points if you can you name this movie reference)

Restaurant: *loud noises in the background and the person who answers the phone sounds a little frazzled - don’t let this intimidate you* Hello, how may I help you?

You: Hi, is your restaurant wheelchair accessible?

Restaurant: Excuse me? *Sometimes people won’t be familiar with accessible/inclusive terminology*

You: Well, there aren’t any stairs in the restaurant, are there?

Restaurant: No, there aren't any stairs in the restaurant.

You: Great, thanks!

*When you get to the restaurant the hostess is ready to check you in at her desk at the bottom of a staircase - oh yes, the restaurant is upstairs. You try and stay calm, quickly bouncing back, “Hi, where’s the elevator?” There isn’t. You could call tomorrow and complain; they might even tell you that there’s a big renovation next week to put in an elevator. You may be told that the person you originally talked to thought that it didn’t matter about the stairs to the entrance because there are no stairs inside. Because, ya, that makes sense. So, get angry. Get bitter. Feel hopeless. Get back up and learn.

Scenario 3: What’s Next?

Restaurant: *Loud noises in the background and the person who answers the phone sounds very frazzled - don’t let this intimidate you* Hello, how may I help you?

You: Hi, I’m looking at your menu online and it looks great (yes, this may look a little like sucking up, but go with it)! Listen, I’m in a wheelchair and I just have a few questions about accessibility so I can see if I can come in, is that ok?

Restaurant: Ok.

You: First of all, are there any stairs or a ramp to get into the entrance of your restaurant?

Restaurant: There are no stairs in the restaurant, which is street-level.

You: Thanks, you’ve been so patient, I just have a few more questions. Does dining happen on more than on the main floor?

Restaurant: Yes, there is dining on the 2nd floor, as well as the main floor.

You: Ok, is there an elevator to get there?

Restaurant: I’m sorry, there isn’t, this is a very old building. (Old/historic buildings seem to be the one of the aspect of enforcing accessibility that feels like a waste of energy.)

You: Thank you for your honesty (it’s good to reinforce honesty, because people can get very creative with their answers about accessibility). I have just a couple more questions for you. Are the bathrooms on the main floor? (I can’t believe how much this comes up but when people are boasting about offering an accessible dining experience they forget the old saying - what goes in must come out - and therefore, the bathrooms need to be accessible, too).

Restaurant Answer #1: Yes, the bathrooms are on the main floor. *I love when I hear this, but based on years of experience (and being the daughter of two lawyers) I make sure just to go a little bit further to really make sure I know what to expect.

You: Fantastic! Now, is there a big stall that fits a wheelchair (with grab bars, if needed) where the other regular stalls are? Or is there a separate bigger bathroom to fit a wheelchair (with grab bars, if needed)? Or is it just a bank of regular-sized stalls? *You may feel pushy and need to practice this. If you have any hesitation about their answer, and question the actual available space for your mobility device, it REALLY helps to know the width of your equipment and relative turning radius. You can choose to ask the restaurant to check the measurements of the doorways and/or the dimensions of a bathroom you might use and have them call you back. This added level of investigation can mean such a calmer experience for you to just be you!

Restaurant Answer #2: The bathrooms are actually in the basement/upstairs (with no elevator), but other than that we are completely wheelchair accessible. *With this answer the choice is yours - is the outing and the experience worth not having access to a bathroom or not? Will you maybe have to be a little more focused about what you order? You know you better than anyone!

You: Well, I’d just really like to thank you for your time and compassion, who was it that I was speaking with again? *If you can, ALWAYS take names! If they were awesome, informative and accommodating, then it would be a beautiful gesture to call the manager and tell them that. Conversely, if the person was rude, or made you feel demanding or ignorant to customers with health challenges, having that name is also good to reference to the manager. This isn’t offered for the purpose of getting anyone in trouble, but an invaluable opportunity for management to provide better training (a girl can dream), or know how their staff treat customers.


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“Overcome the notion that we must be regular... it robs you of the chance to be EXTRAORDINARY ”
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