With the ADA being as old as it is, you would think every place and every business would be wheelchair accessible by now. Sadly, it’s not the case. I want to share a little bit about why it is a benefit for a business to go above and beyond with providing a wheelchair accessible layout. Yes, you are technically catering to a small niche group of people. Yet, I will tell you from my own personal experiences: If I know a business, especially a restaurant, has great accessibility, I will eat at that place over and over again.
For me, comfort is extremely important. In New York City, you can usually find me eating at the same places. My friends and family tell me that I always go to the same places over and over again. I love to try new places, but I always come back to restaurants I can easily navigate with my wheelchair. This allows me to focus on the time I am spending with my friends and family. It’s nice not having to worry about whether a place is accessible, or worrying about if I need to go to the bathroom during the meal, will people have to get up out of their seats for me to get by in my power wheelchair?
The added benefit of having a restaurant that is accessible is the concept of the five-finger rule. Hold your hand out in front of you. You have five fingers. Chances are, you also have five friends or family members you can name for each finger. If I eat at your restaurant, there is an excellent chance I’m going to mention to my five friends or family that I went to your restaurant. I’m going to tell them about the quality of the food and the accessibility of the building. If you have adequate ADA standards, I probably will ask this person I am talking to if they want to try out your restaurant. That person may tell someone else and they know five people and the effect can snowball from there. From a financial standpoint, you might do very well by ensuring your restaurant is accessible to the disabled community.
Sometimes in the city you can run into challenges with wheelchair accessible restaurants. One time I planned to have dinner with three friends at a restaurant downtown in the village in Manhattan. My one friend made the reservations in advance, and she called and the restaurant was wheelchair accessible. I got there everything was great. The restaurant was all on one level. The food was really good. No complaints! Until I had to go to the bathroom. The restaurant’s bathroom was in the basement. So, I had to drive my power wheelchair around the block and use the bathroom inside of a Dunkin Donuts. You want to talk about annoying and awkward! In this case, the building that the restaurant is located is from the 1930s and they have no other place for a bathroom. I encounter this a lot in the city. So, even though the food was great, I won’t be going back to that restaurant, because it’s not worth it for me mentally and physically. I should be able to have a few drinks with my friends at dinner and not have to worry about if I can get into the bathroom. I should be focusing on having a good time, not going a block away to use a bathroom at another restaurant.
I bet to this day that employee at Dunkin Donuts still remembers me, the guy in the power wheelchair, asking to use the bathroom because I couldn’t access the bathroom at the restaurant where I was eating!
About Josh McDermott: Josh is a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. He is a public speaker and has served as a goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Josh lives in New York and loves to travel. Click here to learn more about Josh.