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Aug 20, 2010 01:34 PM

Accessibility problems

As in disabled access, of course. Herewith my mumblings.

So I heard someone say, "Of course they're accessible. It says so on all the reviews." Oh, my. There are a lot of places out there that say they're wheelchair accessible when someone telephones to check. But when one gets there (if you don't further inquire about what whoever answers the phone means by that), one discovers that yes, there's a step or tow or three. Or that the guest is expected to go in through the kitchen or the freight elevator or wait while the staff tries to find people to bodily lift the guest and their mobility device, whether wheelchair or scooter, into the establishment.

And then there are the ramps that require a 180-degree turn but are so narrow that there's not enough room to make the turn no matter how many switchbacks are done. We won't even get into restroom problems.

I know the ADA is very complicated. I've read it. And I know disabilities differ; I was a nurse for many, many years, and what someone with a stroke can use, someone with, say, a spinal cord injury may find un-helpful.

The fact is that many, many publications and websites when they're filling out the details on a place will either copy the info from somewhere else or call the restaurant and take the word of whoever they talk to, who means well, I'm sure, but has never really thought about it. We have a disabled family member, and have to carefully assess whether the scooter will get inside and then have a place so that our family member can be at a table in the scooter and not block aisles.

Anyone else have experience with this?

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  1. Most people have no idea what disability accessibility really means, and that even includes a lot of people with disabilities. I don't have a disability, but I've worked on research projects assessing accessibility at health care facilities and learned a lot about accessibility standards in the process. I'm a big fan of universal design. For most people "accessibility" means a ramp at the entrance and elevators and/or lifts to get from one floor to another. No one ever thinks about how high the paper towel dispensers from the ground or how to use relay phone service if a hearing impaired person needs to make a reservation. In some ways technology is improving things - I recently saw a man with impaired hearing using his iPhone to type his food order at a deli counter - but it's a double edged sword as people who aren't in the know begin to expect more of individual technologies and less of infrastructure.

    On the bright side, I stopped at a gas station last weekend that actually had insulated covers on the pipes under the sink!

    2 Replies
    1. re: mpjmph

      I agree that most have no clue. I use a rolling walker and will soon need to use a scooter or power chair. I don't have much trouble with restaurants as I do with hotels. Most restaurants have gone out of the way to help me and make me comfortable but I have been in many a hotel where the accessible designated room has not enough room around the bed, carpeting so thick that it's hard to roll the wheels and a shower without a bench or hand held sprayer that I have to step over and in to. I have now learned that I have to go to higher end hotel chains and ask for an accessible suite or king and even they will tell me that they can not guarantee the specific room I ask for. I even found a hotel that have handicap designated rooms on the second floor with no elevator!

      It's frustrating and I could go on and on with experiences. Maybe that's why I don't see many people out with a walker, maybe they just stay home.

      1. re: LikestoEatout

        I can't agree more!! I, too, need a rolling walker most of the time, and will also soon need to adapt to life on wheels. I have found that many restaurants have access into the place, but then place the tables so close together it is difficult to maneuver. And where do you store walker while you eat? This is more often a problem in upper end local eateries rather than chains. While the intimate surroundings are good "atmosphere," it makes getting in and out a challenge and disrupts the other diners.

        I haven't stayed in many motels/hotels since my disability manifested itself, but I will be careful what I ask when I make reservations in the future.

    2. My mom is in a wheelchair and I’ve taken her everywhere from the Crystal Cruise to Pie & Burger in Pasadena. I don’t mind going through the kitchen, in fact, I like to say “Hi” to the cooking staff. It’s fun to see these pros work. You would not believe the number of pies in the kitchen at Pie & Burger. Businesses have made great efforts to accommodate their few disabled customers and we always find them very willing to help us. I thank them all for their efforts and we are willing to try to work around less than perfect retrofits.

      1. My M-I-L is completely wheelchair bound, and we discuss the availability of access for her, when making all reservations. Only in one case have we been disappointed. That particular restaurant said that they WERE wheelchair accessible, and it turned out that M-I-L would have to be carried down two narrow, dark flights of stairs. Not quite what we had anticipated. We booked elsewhere and canceled at that moment.

        Good luck, and do ask - requesting full details.


        3 Replies
        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Ah yes, Stairs!! I remember when we flew to Barbados 1st class because it was easier to manage the wheelchair. It was a big Delta jet, I believe, and everything went well. When we landed and they rolled a stairway up to the plane, I wondered how they were going to get that wheelchair down. I figured they would use one of those scissor-bed trucks that the caterers employed. Wrong! Four, big, surly bearers came slowly forward lugging a special, narrow wheelchair with extended handles. My only regret is my camera was in the suitcase, but as they descended the stairs, the scene (head back, eyes tightly closed, maybe hyperventilating) is etched in my memory. I guess they just pop the chute and push you out in coach.

          1. re: BN1

            Whew - I was sweating it for a moment. At least they had it covered. I can imagine a scene like Cleopatra being carried to her "royal barge."

            Glad that it worked out well. I have now learned to ask a LOT more questions.


            1. re: BN1

              Yep, my ex went through that on our trip back from France where he'd managed to shatter his leg. At least we had someone from the airport to push him through the airport so I could manage our two bags. Thank goodness we'd only packed one carry-on each for the whole trip.

          2. For those of you who are interested the following link is for the ADA requirements in all types of facilities. Obviously there are going to be more issues with a building built long ago than one built in the last three decades, but even some of the newer ones are woefully inadequate. I'm not saying this is an easy read, but it can be enlightening.


            1 Reply
            1. re: KaimukiMan

              Yeah, I've read them. Makes your head spin. But as what's called Universal Design becomes more common, it should be easier. Still, I keep thinking about Itzhak Perlman being forced to use a freight elevator.... As to entering through the kitchen, yes, that's one way to do it, but it's a shame that it's necessary. And there are a lot of kitchens where things are just as snug as out on the restaurant floor. (I know people who don't WANT to see the kitchens lest they lose their appetite.)

            2. not a big fan of ADA req's. I think a debt of gratitude is owed to any establishment that makes itself accessible to wheelchair/walker/scooter bound patrons. It isn't cheap, nor is it logistically very feasible sometimes(old buildings, space constraints). Instead of carping about having to enter through the kitchen/service elevator or complaining the ramp is too narrow, how about saying thank you for making it possible for you to come into THEIR establishment!?

              3 Replies
              1. re: nkeane

                I know this is going to end up locked, but since restaurants have to have licenses issued by the city/town, they have to be accessible to all citizens.

                If you'd like to open a private club, then you don't have to worry about accessibility.

                1. re: nkeane

                  Yes, just like people of color should be happy that we let them through the door... Personally, I don't believe that anyone should be allowed out in public only at someone else's convenience.

                  1. re: nkeane

                    This is an astoundingly callous attitude. "Thank you for letting me be brought in the back door like the weekly fish shipment."