Like anyone, I enjoy eating good meal! And while I am able to cook for myself in my home with iLevel® technology on my power chair, sometimes I just want to enjoy an evening out with friends and have an awesome meal. The challenge is finding restaurants that are accessible for me. Typically, if I know a restaurant is not accessible, I just don’t go. It’s not worth the hassle. You aren’t going to enjoy your meal or the company you are with if you’re constantly fighting inaccessible areas like steps, tight aisles or narrow doorways. I will point out that if you are going somewhere for just a quick bite, you typically only worry about accessible entrances and how wide open the dining area is. If you plan to go to a longer dinner, then you must factor into whether the bathrooms are accessible for your wheelchair.
A lot of the newer buildings and restaurants in the Chicago area have been designed and built to meet the requirements brought by the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Learn about accessible places and activities in Chicago. This is helpful for me, as accessibility is improving, and I don’t run into issues too often. One of the biggest challenges that a lot of wheelchair users face when eating out is high-top tables, which is why iLevel technology is so helpful. If I enter a restaurant and all the lower tables at wheelchair height are filled, I can elevate my power wheelchair up to 12 inches and sit comfortably at a high-top table. I can reach things and be a part of the conversation with my friends.
One of my most memorable experiences with poor accessibility at a restaurant involved having to go through the kitchen to get to the dining area. I am a pretty easy-going guy, so it worked out fine in the end, but still, it was a huge pain in the butt. Some places may have to lead power wheelchair users through the guts of the building to take them to their tables, because that is the most accessible part of the restaurant. This may be challenging or stressful for people who use wheelchairs. All you wanted to do was enjoy a nice meal out, and it turned into a huge hassle. Which is why I always say that if you eat someplace and find out its not meeting your accessibility needs, don’t go back there. Why put yourself through that? There are so many other great restaurants that can meet your needs, especially in big cities.
The great thing about living near Chicago is that there is such a variety of restaurants. I love Mexican and Japanese food. Still, there are some types of ethnic foods that I just don’t like. I’ve tried Thai food so many times, yet I can’t get into it. Hey, everyone’s taste buds are different, right? Some of my favorite places to eat are usually smaller. I love some of the local delis or sandwich shops. Food trucks are awesome. One of the best places to get a steak in Chicago is Gibson’s Steakhouse on Rush Street. This restaurant is a bit problematic for me as a wheelchair user. The food is great so because of that, it’s always packed with people. This can be challenging for me to maneuver through crowds in my power wheelchair. iLevel comes in handy here too. When I am elevated, people notice me and are nice enough to give me space so I can get by. And when my meal finally comes and they bring out that big porterhouse, it reminds me that life is good.
About Bryan Anderson: Bryan grew up and resides in Illinois. Injured by an IED in October 2005, Bryan is one of the few triple amputees to survive his injuries in Iraq. He is an ambassador for the Gary Sinise Foundation and a spokesperson for USA Cares, which is focused on assisting post 9-11 veterans. Click here to learn more about Bryan.