There's a restaurant slash bar that's opened near us that Joe and I have been going to for a while. We were excited to see it, even in the renovation stages, because we could both see that the entrance was free and clear. We decided that we'd give it a try once the renovations were done.
One day while passing, we paused to see if there was an announcement of an opening day. The renovations looked nearly done. As we paused we were noticed by a man standing to the left of the door having a cigarette. He said, "You should come by tomorrow, we are open then." I was surprised by the warmth in his voice and even more by the fact that he spoke directly to me, not to Joe standing beside me. I said that we would drop by in the next couple of days, that we couldn't come the next day. I wanted to see how the whole thing worked for me in my chair.
When we dropped in, we found the place comfortable and welcoming and we had a great time. They have a juke box and that can keep me entertained for hours. I love juke boxes. They didn't have a lot of veggie options but promised that they were getting a veggie burger in shortly. They did just that and the new menu has even more options.
That's the set up for the story.
Here's the story:
A few days ago we were dropping into the restaurant for dinner. A fellow in a manual wheelchair coming down the street, quickly waved at me. I paused to wait for him. He asked me about the accessibility of the restaurant. I said, "Oh, yes, it has two doors but the entrance is flat." He said, "Yes, I can see that I can get in, but is it accessible?" It took me a second to understand what he was asking.
He was asking about welcome.
An atmosphere of welcome is an integral part of what accessibility means. Getting in, is one part. Being in ... and being welcome ... is another. I hadn't thought of it that clearly until he asked the question.
I understood why he asked me, a fellow disabled person, that question. Only someone in the disability community would be able to assess 'welcome'. Only someone who has a disability understands what it feels like when disability is 'unwelcome.'
I said, "The doors are flat and the attitudes are ramped."
He said, "Good, looks like a good place to go for a beer then."
I nodded and went in.
And was welcomed.