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I Have A Problem With The Inaccessibility Of Restaurants and Venues Still...

WAGSofSCIWAGSofSCI Moderator Posts: 384 Moderator
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edited March 2019 in Traveling Together
I am a bit fired up.

In the United States and Canada, ADA laws in construction are very strict. All new buildings are required to abide by building standards to ensure that the needs of people who use wheelchairs are met (automatic doors, elevators, larger washrooms etc). This is wonderful progress. But what about the older buildings that do not seem to abide by any of these standards? What about the new buildings that are "accessible" but you have to basically cause a scene - and bring attention to yourself- in order to get to your table or location within the budding? More details about this to come. 

I was inspired to write about this today by one of the lovely WAGS of SCI ladies in our group who posted on the lack of accessible music venues in her city. Her and her boyfriend are constantly let down by the lack of access, and are forced to miss a lot of their favourite shows because of stairs on the older buildings where these concerts are held.

I thought, do people who own these restaurants, stores and venues understand what this does to the psyche of someone in a chair? Do they realize what It does to US, the wife/girlfriend of someone in that chair? Do the lawmakers and building inspectors who enforce ADA compliancy get it? Clearly not. 

I was angry. Her story struck a chord in me because my husband and I have been turned away countless times at venues, restaurants and theatres that don't support accessibility for wheelchairs. We live in Canada, and the rules for ADA compliance are similar to those in the States. This happens most often in older, trendy areas of town, but ALSO (and I have noticed this trend more frequently lately) in new restaurants that claim to be ADA accessible. Yes, new buildings and stores offer access for chairs, but why does it mostly have to be "oh we can get him in through the back entrance" or "he can get in to the restaurant via the kitchen" or "heres the disabled table" (yes this actually happened to us) and they point us to a small table in the corner, secluded and different than all the rest of the tables in the area. They want to be inclusive, yet why is it so hard for them to see that these situations enforce exclusivity and not in a good way, especially for someone who stands out as it is.

We like to go out, and being part of the community as a young, food and wine loving couple is extremely important to us. Its one of the only things we can do together now that isn't impacted by my husbands disability, so we try and get out as much as we can. When we are turned away because the location we are going to doesn't have a ramp, or there are 3 stairs to get up to the restaurant, the joy that was on my husbands face turns to sadness. He doesn't like to show it, but sometimes tears well up in his eyes when he doesn't think anyone is looking. How do I feel? I feel a combination of agony for him and anger toward everyone else. I could cause a war with my words if given the chance. But usually, we leave, and go elsewhere or go home without anything done to ease the pain of rejection. We have learned that complaining doesn't work - they don't care. We have written emails and reviews about our experiences and nothing seems to change.

Another example is when we get to a location (this happened a few weeks ago) and learn that there are stairs all over the restaurant with lowered floors, but the back entrance is accessible - he would just have to be brought through the garbage area, kitchen, hassle a ton of staff on his way, move boxes, ironing boards, staff meals and then knock a few things over in order to get by... to get to our table? Sometimes we just say NO because its not worth it. But how is this ok with them? When they see this happening, why do they not change?

Over the years we have learned to live with this, but something about her comments today on our group page fired me up to finally write on this. In North America, where revolutions are being led and times are changing in favour of inclusivity for all - shouldn't understanding be more common? Shouldn't people put themselves in our partners shoes? How would they feel if they couldn't get into a brand new restaurant all their friends are going to, but they cant just because their bodies didn't work like they used to? When buildings are being built, should these new locations be approved for accessibility even if the wheelchair users have to go out of their way to get in? Is this really access for all? Should older buildings be forced to find a way for wheelchair users to get in easily? 

How accessible IS “accessible”? 

I would love to know all of your thoughts on this. - Brooke (WAGS of SCI)

Your WAGS of SCI
(Elena and Brooke)


  • garrisonreddgarrisonredd Moderator Posts: 160 Moderator
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    I go through this issue all the time in New York City @WAGSofSCI
    sometimes clubs do not want to let me in because I use a wheelchair
  • garrisonreddgarrisonredd Moderator Posts: 160 Moderator
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    I also found there is a lot of lopholes in the ADA requirements for buildings in which they often do not have to make there entity accessible @WAGSofSCI
    such as things like they have over a year to make the renovation.
  • jaarchjaarch Moderator Posts: 50 Moderator
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    My town has come a long way in the last five years or so. Almost every intersection has accessible curbs and most businesses have modified their buildings to accommodate wheelchair users. There are still quite a few small businesses that have not adapted as of yet. I simply do not give them my business. I did have one really positive experience at a local florist. I wanted to get my wife some really nice flowers for our anniversary so I decided to stop by this particular shop to get them. The shop has been there since 1942! They have a fairly large parking lot with a couple really big handicapped spaces. Well, the one problem is the entire building is up on a step and there are no ramps for me to get inside. The owner came out and asked if I could wait just a few minutes. I said sure and he went and built a ramp for me using bricks, 2x4s, and plywood. It was very sturdy and worked perfectly.  
  • 619Drake619Drake Member Posts: 19
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    This really strikes an accord with me too. My wife and I enjoy wining and dining as an activity I as a wheelchair user can participate in with her on a regular basis. I have lived in the same area all thirty years I have been a paraplegic so I have seen a lot of changes. Using the services elevators, rolling through a kitchen and finding bar height tables in "accessible venues" have happened. But, like most things I have found since my accident put me in a wheelchair, you can dwell on the hundreds of thousands things you can't do any more or you can dwell on the thousands of things you can do. Find those places in your area that are accessible and keep them open with your business.
  • WAGSofSCIWAGSofSCI Moderator Posts: 384 Moderator
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    Hey all- thank you for your comments. I guess I’m asking too much to want to have ALL venues and restaurants accessible like it is for regular able bodied individuals ahah. My point: Why should we be limited to going to just those places that have gotten their act together to be fully accessible? Why does there have to be a choice? I guess I’m asking for a perfect world that isn’t available yet......

    i really am bothered by the accessibility of new ADA “accessible” spaces though- why is it ok to have to go out of your way and inconvenience staff/make a slight scene/draw attention to yourself to get in? how we have to get the manager or staff to go out of THEIR way to get us in some places? My big issue is I don’t think disabled people should have to even do this. We cause enough of a distraction, and also- I notice 50% of the time the staff are noticibly bothered by the hassle it takes to get my husband in to “accessible” places because they put the “special entrance” so out of the way sometimes. I just feel like the people who design the spaces or approve the plans don’t put thereselves in a wheelchair users shoes. It’s all about what is easiest and cheapest. 

    I’m just saying that I personally want a North America that absolutely is accessible to all in a convenient way- everyone uses the same entrances - no matter what. Is that too much to ask? #dreamer 😂
    - Brooke 

    Your WAGS of SCI
    (Elena and Brooke)
  • MelshayshayMelshayshay Member Posts: 1
    First Comment Photogenic

    I agree this is one of the most frustrating parts of going out. Maybe it is the Minnesota nice in us, but we try to be patient and figure it out as we go. I think the people who own these places sometimes just have NO IDEA. We've explained what's wrong a few times and most seem willing to fix it. I've even showed them online where to buy inexpensive portable ramps. 

    It used to bug me a lot to be stared at, but I think one of the strengths of this group is showing everyone that we exist, and in bigger numbers than most realize. I think most people just don't have any perspective because they don't see us out enough. The more they see, the more they learn and appreciate the challenges. They may also begin to understand that accessible isn't just for your 80-year-old grandma.

  • SterlionSterlion Moderator Posts: 104 Moderator
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    I choose not to spend my money at these places. What else can we do? I recently went out with my brother to a bar and the men's restroom was downstairs. (Note: this is a historical part of town so ADA compliance is not necessary.) The bartender said it was ok for me to use the women's but when we got over there the bouncer refused to let me in, said it was against the law to allow men in the women's restroom. Safe to say I will no longer be going to that establishment.

    For changes to really be made there needs to be more support from able-body people. I don't think businesses care enough to spend more to make it easier for 1-2 people in wheelchairs that come in every now and then.
  • BrookeUBrookeU Moderator Posts: 176 Moderator
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    I love this topic. To preface, I think the ADA is a great starting point, but eventually I would like to see universal design become a requirement for new construction. My family lives in Savannah, Georgia, a very historic city. Unfortunately, there are many building that are not wheelchair accessible. My brother says that the flatness of the city almost makes up for it, though.

    @jaarch, those are the kind of people we need! Hopefully he'll get a permanent ramp, too.

    Something that I have an internal battle with is the often inaccessibility of music venues. My brother and I both consider live music to be a huge part of our lives. Most of the concerts we went to growing up were at a specific venue in Atlanta, where ADA seating is part of the photographers' pit. Unfortunately, due to so many people faking disabilities to be up front and thus overcrowding, he's only allowed one companion to sit with him there. So usually my mom and I took turns between there and standing room. Also, he had to get into the venue from a back entrance. Granted, this place is an old church, so I understand...but it was still frustrating.

    A lot of the bands we listen to frequently play club-size venues. This gets tricky because there often is no ADA section. We just get to the front early. However, one of our favorite bands has some fans that love to mosh. If someone were to aggressively bump into Chris, with his limited upper body control, his head could hit the edge of the stage...hard. So when we're with a group, we enlist everyone's help to build a wall (made of ourselves) around him.

    Another time, at one venue, there was ADA seating, but people who were in the section stood in front of Chris. Luckily, without us having to say anything, the head of security (who also oversees ADA) asked them to move, apologized to my brother, and gave him his email address and said that the next show Chris wanted to go to was free. A couple years after that, I started interning at that venue (I study music business in school), and that head of security really is that great of a person.

    In school, my major is public relations and I am earning certificates in both music business and disability studies. I've considered before that one way of bridging all of those together is to potentially work on getting more venues to be more accessible. I love live music, and I want everyone to be able to enjoy it. If I'm ever in a position to really make some change, I'll be back on here getting everyone's insight. :)
  • cynoideacynoidea Member Posts: 1
    First Comment
    I find it frustrating that some restaurants and venues will false advertise themselves as wheelchair accessible.
    I once went to check out a restaurant (I live in Philly) that advertised themselves as wheelchair accessible. The restaurant was 2 stories high (with stairs leading up to upper level seating). First floor seating area only had high tables and bar seats! The place was accessible, sure! We could get through the door into the restaurant no problem. But restaurants should realize that they are not being "inclusive" if they lack proper seating in accessible dining areas. The restaurant had great accessible tables upstairs... if only we could get upstairs.

    I completely agree with Brooke (@WAGSofSCI) in the sense that "these situations enforce exclusivity and not in a good way." It is so upsetting to show up at what we thought was an accessible restaurant, only to find high tables and bar stools. They are failing at trying to be inclusive, and it really hurts. 
  • BrookeUBrookeU Moderator Posts: 176 Moderator
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    @cynoidea, Showing up to what you thought would be an accessible restaurant that turns out to only have high-tops is the worst! I also wish more bars were accessible.

    My brother and mom were recently in town for my college graduation, and we needed some late-night food. I wanted to show them one of my favorite spots, which has high-top and regular heigh tables. Unfortunately, high-tops were all that were left, and we were ready to just try to make it work the best we could. Then I caught one of the workers politely asking a group of people at a regular height table if they'd move to a high-top, and they did. He didn't even ask my brother if that was needed, and he didn't make a scene about it (like so many hosts/hostesses at restaurants sometimes do). I wish there weren't any high-tops there, but this was really appreciated!
  • WAGSofSCIWAGSofSCI Moderator Posts: 384 Moderator
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    @cynoidea I love when people do that- they don’t understand how much it means to us but it’s so kind. Thank you to alllll the people out there who have moved tables from someone in a wheelchair - it’s beyond considerate - Brooke 
    Your WAGS of SCI
    (Elena and Brooke)
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