I received an email from a reader recently who asked me to include information about accessibility in cafes and restaurants when I review them. Like many people who take their able-bodiedness for granted, the design of built environments is something I notice more on an aesthetic level than a practical level.
I replied that I would be happy to do so, though I may not be able to understand everything that could be an obstacle to people with different abilities when entering venues. Some of the issues my reader raised are obvious, like stairs in doorways making access impossible for people in wheelchairs or using walking aids. Others are less obvious, and are things I would not have thought of without her informing me.
Ordering and paying at a high counter can be difficult if you’re in a chair and are therefore much lower than a standing person. Low light, one of the current signifiers of a high quality restaurant, is a problem for people who have limited vision. And there are many barriers to entering toilets including stairs, narrow passageways and doors and cramped cubicles.
Thinking of some of the places I have spent time in recently, their accessibility is very poor. Take Naked for Satan on Brunswick St as an example. Only the front bar area would be easily accessible. You have to go up one set of stairs, then down another set to get to the toilets. While I’m sure the design was based on the principal of making the best use of the existing space within the building, from an accessibility point of view the design appears to be deliberately inaccessible.
We’d like to ask for your help. If you’re a fellow food blogger, please take a moment when you’re in a space to consider how accessible it may be for someone with a physical disability. And when you’re writing your review later, please include whatever you think is relevant about the space – if there are stairs, where the toilets are, was the furniture crowded, did the lighting make it hard to see obstacles, and so on.
For commenters, please share your accessibility thoughts. If you’ve had a problem at a venue, comment about it. If you’ve raised the issue with venue staff, please tell us their response. Which venues make an effort to be accessible, and which don’t?