Thursday, July 07, 2016

Not Getting It Quite Right

From their web page I discovered almost everything I needed to know. They had a diverse menu, complete with both vegetarian and vegan offerings. They were located right near where we were going to meet our friend. They had really good reviews. I looked, found their phone number and called them.

A friendly voice answered the phone. I asked them if their restaurant was wheelchair accessible. "Yes, we are!" she stated with some excitedment. Then I was told about the flat entrance and the fully accessible washroom. "We are quite proud of the access we provide," she said.

I never know what to say when someone says that they are 'proud' of being accessible. At an earlier stage of my life with a disability I would have said something like, "and you should be!" I don't say that any more. I guess because I think accessibility should be a given not a gift. But, since she was in such a good mood about it all, I thought I'd press the point.

"Well, you aren't completely accessible," I said. She rushed to assure me that they were. "The thing is," I explained, "If you were fully accessible, I wouldn't be talking to you at all. I went to your web site, like any other customer, checked out your menu, like any other customer, and now I have to call you, unlike other customers, because you have no information about your accessibility on your website. There is still an extra step in the process for disabled people. If you want to be absolutely, fully accessible, you need to remove that last step."

There was a moment of silence on the phone.

I felt ice form.

Then, after that frozen pause, "OK, I've noted it down. I'll give that to the owners." Then I felt really bad, like I'd taken the wind out of her sails about the accessibility of the place. She sounded defeated.

I thought I was being an advocate but I was being a bit of an asshole. See it's this personal bugaboo of mine, I believe that it should be manditory that restaurants and bars have an accessiblity notice on their websites. I once spent an hour in Baltimore calling restaurants trying to find one that had vegetarian options and was wheelchair accessible. It pisses me off. I don't think I should have to call. I think they should just tell you on their site. I had brought all of that into a conversation with someone who was excited about the fact that the restaurant she worked in was accessible.

I don't regret mentioning it, but I could have done it differently. I didn't need to challenge her assertion that they were accessible, because I wasn't really doing that, I was challenging her.

Shit.

Sometimes this advocacy thing is hard to get right.

7 comments:

h smith said...

The good mood woman could just as easily have responded with "wow, we are numptys for not realising that, thanks for pointing it out, we'll get that sorted". Like you said, accessibility shouldnt be a gift that we have to feel grateful for, it should simply exist. When it doesnt we have a perfect right to point that out, and we dont have to do that in a way that spares feelings when people have a choice about how they hear us. Of course we try, but its up to the bipeds to make an effort to try too.

Frank_V said...

There is a restaurant review website in Montreal, with a "Features" pick list, where "Wheelchair Accessible" is a search criteria. The more websites that use this capability, and not just restaurants, the better it will be for all humans.

Here's the link, let's encourage our governments to use it as a model.

http://www.restomontreal.ca/

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

They usually tell you about parking on their websites, and location.

I think you are entitled to be able to tell, without calling them, if you can get in!

Once a little handicapped logo is common on websites, merchants will rush to include it on theirs.

But we're still facing that 'disabled people turn other people off to a place merely by being there' prejudice - that healthy people don't want to be among sick people, and which assumes that disability is contagious and bad and is equivalent to disease.

Maybe we need a series of public service ads showing how hard it is to take a beloved grandma out to celebrate her 90th birthday because she's in a wheelchair, and they can't get her in. Or a tiny-tim child whose entry to his family reunion is impeded - and ruins the whole family's special day.

Stories get through hard hearts.

Unknown said...

ideally the information would be on the website...i wish places would put on their website the nearest parking garage/transit stop, too. but you might still have to call and ask specific questions...as you have said before, places often SAY they are accessible but aren't, truly.
don't beat yourself up, Dave..we all mess up sometimes....you weren't intending to harm...Clairesmum

Rachel Schneider said...

I don't think you said anything wrong, Dave, but please remember that she's probably at the bottom rung of decision-making. I am at my job, and believe me I'd make some different decisions and/or carry out things that I simply do not have the power to decide or do.

But yes, they should have it on their website. Next time (there will be one, we all know that) I would get the contact info for whoever is the owner or otherwise has authority and go straight to them. Especially as in this case obviously the staff does care, so hopefully their reaction will be "DUH! Why didn't I think of that!" and get the site changed.

And now that I think about it, I don't remember anytime I've seen anything about accessibility on a restaurant's website. Hmm.

GoodWorx said...

Did you know about wheelmap?

Raul Krauthausen #activist at @SOZIALHELDEN, founded www.wheelmap.org & fights for #inclusion & #accessibility. Website http://raul.de/ .

Northern Ireland on wheelmap http://bit.ly/29yQbEq .

www.Wheelmap.org your favorite spots & share app with your friends!

Sherry-Lynn K said...

GoodWorx...thank you for sharing that link! I've never seen it before, but have shared it on my FB now!