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When a Restaurant Didn't Value Me as a Disabled Customer

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Recently I visited a restaurant and was forced to make a choice. I entered the restaurant eager to try two dishes featured on the Food Network. However, I never sat at a table. The experience lasted for 10 minutes. It was my first time at this restaurant. The wooden tables were round and high and were the only seating arrangement available.  The restaurant was half full on a Tuesday evening. One table was marked with a blue sticker signaling that the table was allegedly “disability accessible.” The table was the same height as the other ones.

I pushed toward the hostess stand, but three steps blocked me. I parked myself at the foot of the steps, hoping to draw the hostess’ attention. Two minutes later, I locked eyes with the slender red-headed employee assigned to seat customers. She had a nervous expression. “Can I help you, sir?”

“I am by myself. Can I sit at any table?”

The hostess told me she would be back, so I waited. My wheelchair seemed to stress her out. She returned with a wrench and began to crank the “accessible” table but was unsuccessful. The table did not budge. She apologized insincerely and asked another employee for assistance, but he was not successful either. I began to lose patience, but decided to give the employees a chance to work it out.

The man walked away from me and got on his phone. I could not hear what he said. The hostess ignored me, apparently not wanting to admit the restaurant was unable to accommodate me. I called her to show her I am aware. She told me someone was “on the way” to lower the table but was not in the restaurant. The same man who called for help joined the conversation.

I decided to leave. In a last effort to restore goodwill, the man told me someone would lower the table “in five minutes.” I declined and went to the pizzeria next door. I asked the first restaurant to lower the table anyway so they do not ruin the next encounter with a disabled customer. They agreed, but when I passed the restaurant 20 minutes later, the table was in the same position.

I will never enter their restaurant again, because nothing will change by rewarding intolerant behavior. Business owners should know I value establishments that make an effort to accommodate me, and I am happy to help them keep their doors open as long as they try to help me.

Image by Maia Eli / Unsplash.

Originally published: October 16, 2018
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