Mike and I are guilty of being foodies. One of our favorite things to do is go out to dinner at a fantastic restaurant, offering superb food, wine and service.
Since the fabulous ADA guidelines make ramps required at commercial businesses, logistically, there should not be any problems eating at restaurants, right? Keep reading.
First of all, the word logistics in all it’s forms does not apply to anything regarding the ADA. Logistics implies coordination, planning and strategy. I have experienced nothing of the kind when it comes to the ADA.
A perfect example. The restaurant Mike and I arrive at have a ramp. Great, I can get inside! What else could possibly be needed for us to enjoy our evening?
Tables. Most restaurant tables are not wheelchair friendly. What do I mean? How can a table pose a problem?
First, the height. If a table is too low, my knees hit it and I cannot get underneath. I am tall, so I am dealing with at least a foot and a half of space between my abdomen and the table. Who can reach their food and drink sitting that far away?
Second, the legs. Most restaurant table legs are designed in such a way they cause the same problem the table height does. I cannot get close enough to the table because my wheelchair wheels or knees or footrests hit the table legs.
If the table has a pedestal in the middle, I hit the pedestal before I’m close enough to the table to eat. If the table legs branch out like a spider, my wheels hit them, causing the same problem.
Here is where it becomes interesting. I refuse to not be accommodated in a situation like this. I am asking for a table I can eat a meal at comfortably… not for an elevator to to be instantly constructed in a sixty year old five-story walk up apartment building.
The restaurant has a disabled sticker displayed in its window, right alongside its Zagat’s sticker. They need to live up to their advertisement and be truly accessible.
When we are shown by the maître d’to an unfriendly wheelchair table, I quietly explain my needs as Mike surveys the room for a workable table.
Some proprietors are fantastic. They profusely apologize. They want me to show them exactly what I need. They promise to find something I will be completely comfortable with.
Some proprietors are jerk offs. They show us what they have to offer, and if it doesn’t work, that’s my problem. I am sure to tell these types of folks that neither myself nor any of my family will ever grace their establishment again.
They rarely care about this. What they do not realize yet, however, is many of my family members enjoy wining and dining at fine restaurants in our area on a very regular basis. I throw a few names over my shoulder as I leave, and I have seen more then one restaurant owner with an “Uh-Oh ” look come across their face.
The funny thing is, if a restaurant is willing to work with me, 90% of the time we can figure out a table arrangement I am comfortable with. It’s not rocket science. It’s called caring.
Going out to dinner is supposed to help you decompress, not add on more stress. In an effort to accomplish this, if we are going to a restaurant for the first time, I explain my needs when I make our reservation.
Some people start talking extremely loud as soon as they hear the word wheelchair. Thanks for shouting. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to hear you because of my paralysis.
Some folks cannot grasp the table situation, but promise to do whatever is necessary when we arrive. Some live up to their promise. Others find it too difficult to deal with.
Occasionally, people understand exactly what I need. When we arrive at the restaurant, there is a wheelchair friendly table waiting for us, with a smile from the maître d’.
We have acquired a few favorite restaurants. The food is fantastic every time we go. The employees are pleasant and take the time to get to know you so they remember what you like. There is a candlelit table waiting for us in a great location of the restaurant. And it is perfectly wheelchair friendly. This is a concept many restaurants need to learn.