How to make restaurants accessible
The advantages of an accessible restaurant
People with disabilities dine out too. If they have a bad experience they will be less likely to come back and recommend your restaurant to others.
There may be local disability groups that would give a restaurant with great accessibility their business so it could be in your best interest to offer an accessible experience.
Lots of families have people with disabilities which may include their older members. Not making your restaurant accessible could mean it misses out on family gatherings.
If your restaurant requires booking then a way to book online as well as phone booking could be good. Some people can't talk using a phone so booking via email or an online form could be better for them.
It is a good idea to have accessible parking spots close to the entrance which are typically 30 mm wider than normal parking spots. The total width for accessible parking spots for cars is usually 96 inches. A wheelchair symbol on a blue background makes accessible parking spots easier to see.
Some people get out of their vans through the side; to accommodate them you can have at least one spot of 132 inches beside an area that's also 60 inches wide. This recommendation comes from the Americans with Disabilities Act.
A flat, ground floor entrance is best. For restaurants not located on the first floor a talking lift with Braile provides accessibility for people who are blind.
A mounted ramp is best however a portable ramp for wheelchairs might be an option.
Self opening doors are best. If this is not possible and it's not a push door then a lever door handle that's color contrasted with the door frame would be the most accessible.
Some people need service dogs and it would be helpful if restaurants accommodate them. You may have signs on entrances saying "Service animals welcome". You may be required to accommodate service dogs depending on regulations in your area.
If some entrances are not accessible then it should have a sign giving directions to the accessible entrances.
Floor and walls
It's helpful for people who are color blind to have the floors and walls that color contrasts with seating.
Ensure the flooring is non slip too.
It's helpful if there's enough space for people who use wheelchairs, service dogs and canes to move around. Sometimes people in their chairs have to move and that isn't ideal. This inconveniences me and interrupts the other person's experience.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires walkways between the seating to be at least 36 inches.
Mobility aids and scooters
It's helpful to have spaces for people to park mobility scooters and an area to store mobility aids.
Dining surfaces and other tables
According to the A.D.A. tables must be 28 to 34 inches high to accommodate guests in wheelchairs. It'll be helpful if any self serving areas also follow this requirement.
To allow a person in a wheelchair to dine at the table the distance between the floor and frame of the table must be a minimum of 27 inches. Additionally 30 inches of clearance is required between the legs of the table.
Tables should be steady and level to give the customer the best experience.
To help people who are color blind surfaces should be a contrasting color to the objects on them.
The only requirement of the A.D.A is to have bench seating a minimum width of 42 inches with a depth of 20-24 inches.
Bench seating must have a back support matching the length of the seat. It's also required to be 2 inches at minimum above the seat cushion and extend above it no less than 18 inches. It must also be set back from the cushion at least 2.5 inches.
Ensure the seats are level and steady otherwise it could be problematic for the people using them.
Large serviettes are also good.
Ensure you have a range of options available for people that may be have allergies. Listing ingredients on your menu/website can allow people to choose items appropriate for them which saves your staff time. Some people need gluten free options as an example.
Straws and cups
Plastic straws are not ideal for the environment so communities are banning them. Some people find drinking out of cups difficult. Paper straws can be an alternative but some people with disabilities still can't use them. It is better if restaurants still provide plastic straws to people that need them.
Easy to grip cups should be available for people with limited hand mobility.
If your venue is in the United States of America it must have at least one accessible toilet. We also recommend that restaurants have at least one accessible toilet regardless of their location.
Braille and large print
It is helpful if a Braile version of your menu is available for people that need them. You may want to consider Braile business cards too. There should be local places that print Braile if you're interested.
Large print menus can also help some people, particularly senior citizens. Making your menu available in different formats could be worthwhile.
Another way for customers to access your menu is to have it on your website in text format so screen readers can read it.
Large print is also helpful for name tags and table numbers.
Some people would also prefer that staff read the menu to them.
Any pre recorded background music is best quiet as this is better for people with autism. It also makes it easier to hear people if the music is not loud. Similarity it's best to limit noise from other areas of the restaurant such as the kitchen.
Ensure all areas of your venue are echo free as echoes are problematic for people who are blind. Echoes also interfere with speech recognition apps which may be used by people that cannot hear.
Communication and sign language
Some people cannot talk so it could be worthwhile for your staff to be mindful of different communication styles.
You may want to have someone trained in sign language on your serving team. Some people would know sign language already; you could ask if they know it in interviews. You could also encourage people to learn.
People facing the customer while speaking may help lip readers.
If someone with an interpreter is communicating with you it's polite to speak to the original person rather than the interpreter.
Reading text off mobile phones or tablets could be necessary for communication with some people.
You might want to consider buzzers at the service counter and/or tables to make it easier for people to get attention from staff.
Lighting throughout your restaurant
For a great experience the lighting in rooms should be constant For service areas the lighting should be glare-free.
You should ensure that card terminals can reach people in wheelchairs and shorter members of society.
Patient staff can be a help as some people do things slowly or have trouble reading. The ability for your staff to adapt could be the difference between a good or bad experience.
If possible get your staff trained by people with disabilities. Reach out to local disability organizations and see if you can arrange this.
Alternatively would be helpful if you mention some of these points to your staff or you can send them the web address of this page so they can read our advice. This article was written by a person with Cerebral Palsy with additional ideas from people in a disability oriented Facebook group.
We have a guide on accessible websites. In addition it would be helpful if the menu and prices are on the website to assist people who may not be able to read your menu at your restaurant. You may want to a page on the accessibility features of your venue too.
Thanks for reading!
Hopefully you can use our information to make your restaurant accessible for people with disabilities.