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.
The blog was posted originally on March 16, 2014.
About the Author
Born in Victoria, British Columbia, far too long ago to make a difference here, Richard McBride was, up until recently, a lifelong resident of the Vancouver and Fraser Valley region of Canada's most western province. McBride has had the joy of a very diverse career ranging from his first career as a stockbroker to training consultant and technology consultant to project manager.
Major changes in his life before his diagnosis of ALS meant his relocation to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It was there that he received the diagnosis in November 2012. McBride continues to share his life and experiences both through his blog and through a tremendous group of friends, support specialists, and most importantly, with his four children and two grandchildren, with one on the way.