Despite knowing that the world is really not very accessible, on occasion, I am still gobsmacked by the lack of consideration given to disabled customers.
I’ve just come home from a family meal. We chose a lovely refurbished pub and hotel, near to where we live.
The food was really quite impressive, the kids were very well behaved, there was a good choice of food and a great atmosphere. It has clearly been lovingly restored by the owners who, in my opinion, have great taste in decor and wine and it offered quality, local produce.
The children’s menu was also very well thought out (and the kids really did love their dinner).
But for me, it was a real struggle to put on a happy face and enjoy it (but I did, of course, for my family’s sake). Why?
Starting with the huge steps up to the restaurant from the bar. We would have sat in the bar, but food isn’t served there, so we had to carry my son in his wheelchair up the steps.
He’s six, so between my dad and my husband that is just about doable. He thought it was great to ‘fly’ up and down them, but it made my heart sink.
Because it will not be long at all before that is just plain dangerous.
And imagine having to do that with an adult.
How utterly embarrassing for them, not to mention impossible in most circumstances. Despite the staff being cheery and attentive, nobody acknowledged or apologised for that (or offered an alternative route).
Whilst a member of staff handed us menus and took our drinks orders, I asked quietly where the disabled/accessible toilet was - to which I got a very apologetic reply, that there wasn’t one.
The builders had taken it out in the refurb and not put it back in. The member of staff said that one would be put in, but it had not been as yet.
She did tell me that there was a slightly larger cubicle in another part of the building that we could use - but we didn’t, we just held on till we got home as we knew that would not be any help. A standard accessible loo is hard enough to use for changing and toileting my son.
A cubicle is impossible.
The lady was very embarrassed and I did feel for her. So I was understanding and polite and didn’t question it or make a scene. It was clearly not her fault or decision.
I sat through the meal next to my little boy, in his bright orange wheelchair, as he hungrily devoured his battered fish and chips and played with his toy cars. I watched him really enjoy his meal and being out in a nice place to eat.
Despite finding many public places a huge challenge with his anxiety, he loves pubs and restaurants, particularly if they have nice fish and chips!
So we do eat out often as a family. It’s one of our favourite things to do together. And in my mind, it’s one of the things we should be able to do together as equals.
Shouldn’t we? It broke my heart that he is so blissfully unaware that this place had not considered him at all. Not to mention the rest of the disabled population!
I have not named the restaurant because I would like to build a relationship with them and see if I can help them become more accessible (and of course I will be strongly recommending that they include a changing bench and hoist in this disabled toilet that is yet to be put in. (If Wetherspoons can include a Changing Places, then this high-end beauty of an establishment can!) I’d really like to help them.
I just don’t think that the needs of those with disabilities has crossed their minds. Or at least I hope it’s just ignorance and not that they have chosen to be this inaccessible.
It does make me wonder just how many other places that are refurbishing will end up in this same inaccessible situation? Why is nobody making sure that places are actually catering for all customers? Or are we just expecting too much? Should we just accept that we are not really that important?
Should we heck!
I consider all children (but, of course, especially my own) to be some of the most important people on the planet. We should be teaching them that the world should be accessible to all, not accepting that this is the way things are! They are the next generation.
I feel it’s my duty now to make this place aware of how awful they look to a family with additional needs. We visit a lot of pubs and restaurants, many of which are so old it’s a wonder they are even still standing.
Then of course I’m not as expectant.
But when something is new and lots of money has obviously been invested in making it impressive (it’s hard as a designer to not notice the extravagant things like designer light fittings and gold foil printed menus) to discover how far down the list of importance the disabled customer comes, is a real slap in the face.
I’m going to try to change that. Here and wherever we go. If I can.
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