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How to Find Restaurants That Really Are Accessible

In this 'Spendid Table' interview, hear from two diners who learned the hard way

If you like to go out with a friend or loved one who has physical limitations or you have some yourself, chances are you’ve run into “accessible” restaurants that aren’t.

“Just asking ’Is the restaurant accessible?,’ a lot of the time, what I’ve found is the staff may not know what that actually means. So they’ll tell you ‘yes,’ because they’re coming from a place of ‘Well, I was able to get in,’” said David Friedman in an interview that aired on public radio’s The Splendid Table.

Friedman, a special ed teacher who writes The Disabled Foodie blog, and John Hockenberry, a WNYC radio host, both rely on wheelchairs and they compared notes about dining out. They told Dan Pashman of WNYC’s podcast The Sporkful that the way to find truly accessible restaurants is to ask questions that are concrete and specific. Not “Is the bathroom accessible?” but “Are there grab bars around the toilet?”

“A single step is invisible to people,” Hockenberry said. “You really do have to say things like ‘How many steps are there to get into your restaurant?’”

Accessibility aside, what matters most to Friedman is whether the staff make him feel like he’s “from Mars,” he said.

“One thing that was said to me recently that really resonated is that everybody will be disabled, be it permanently or temporarily, at some point in their lifetime,” noted Friedman.

Listen to Friedman and Hockenberry’s conversation here.


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