Sunday, 16 March 2014

A Tale Of Two Breakfasts

Yesterday I went to brunch with friends. We went to Denny's, a few minutes away from where I live. The restaurant was busy, as you might expect at a Denny's on Saturday morning. My friends arrived before I did and were told that a table would be available in about 15 or 20 minutes. They explained that one of their party, me, was in a wheelchair and the table would have to accommodate my chair.

I arrived shortly thereafter, parking around the corner as both of the handicapped parking spots were full. The restaurant was busy so I expected a wait. What I got was something more than a wait. The design of Denny's, and so many other restaurants these days, is built around the able bodied. This is to be expected; there's a lot of them. Most of us are able bodied, except for those of us who are not. These designs, with their focus on able bodied people, have booth tables in most places. This would not be a problem for many of us in wheelchairs; many of us can transfer from a chair to a booth seat. However this is a problem when those booth seats are raised up, lifted as high as six or eight inches, on platforms.

This was the case in Denny's. The vast majority of the seating was in raised booths, just high enough that a transfer was impractical for me. So we waited for one of their corner tables, where a wheelchair could roll up and I could be seated with the rest of my friends. We waited while able bodied people went ahead of us, sitting in those raised booths. There were others waiting for accessible tables, others in wheelchairs or in other ways impeded in mobility. They too were compelled to sit and wait, as able bodied people went on in and had their breakfast.

We finally got a table, and finally got to spend our meal together. I cannot complain about the initial wait; it was Saturday at Denny's. On the other hand the designers who come up with these raised booth ideas clearly are not considering the mobility challenged. As our population ages and more people face these challenges, these booths are going to be increasingly problematic, not just for those of us in wheelchairs, but for all of an aging population.

This morning I went to Moxie's, to have breakfast with other friends, in the mall across the street from where I live. Moxie's is not a popular breakfast place. It is more a lunch and dinner kind of restaurant. So the place was almost empty. There were plenty of low tables. However I saw those same raised booths and thought to myself about what would happen when things were busy there. I made a mental note to avoid Moxie's during the busy hours, as I would likely have to wait longer for a table, just like I did at Denny's.

I see this a lot, this unintended discrimination against people in wheelchairs. Restaurants with raised booths; pubs with high tables in their floor level sections and low tables in their raised areas, with no access for wheelchairs to those upper levels; stores with raised platforms for merchandising, placing merchandise out of reach for the handicapped; there are too many examples to list.

It's not just me. There was another man in a wheelchair at Denny's. My Mom has difficulty with stairs; getting into a raised booth is a challenge for her. I have a friend who uses a cane and has issues with steps; raised platforms can be a challenge. While I have plenty of able bodied friends, what is happening to me could happen to any one of them, or something else could steal their mobility. Life, and the world, becomes more challenging and difficult, given that it is pretty much completely designed around those who can lift their feet.

No comments:

Post a Comment