The Mighty Logo

Want to Make Dining Out While Disabled Less Aggravating? Here’s Where to Start.

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

As our editorial team was preparing our list of the 50 best wheelchair accessible restaurants alongside Yelp, we noticed a common thread in the articles we had done over the years on restaurant experiences. This is the nice way to put it: Restaurants can be quite the source of frustration for disabled folks.  

We had an inkling that our Mighty community had a lot to say in this regard so we decided to just ask, “If you are physically disabled, what have been both your positive and negative experiences with dining out?” 

And well… let’s just say there’s a lot of work to be done to make the experience of dining out while disabled a better one. But while that’s the bad news, the good news is that most of the responses, including the ones below, show that many of the common challenges are quite fixable. 

Here’s what really bothers our community:

Seating matters, too

“Wobbly tables! I have muscle weakness in my arms and legs. I have to brace myself on the table to get up.” – Dale

Disability is not contagious

“My husband is in a wheelchair. Maybe if restaurants were built with the disabled being the patrons it would be better for everyone and you wouldn’t have to do an obstacle course to get to the restroom or a table. Some of the popular restaurants tend to put you in a back corner away from everyone. My husband gets very [upset] about being treated like he has the plague.” – Barbara N.

Bathrooms are a huge part of accessibility

“The only thing I ever had any problem with was too small of bathrooms.”  – @janicembarber12

“The major issues are with going to the restroom and the location of said restroom.” – Clifford H.

“I think the main problem I’ve noticed is stairs going up or down to the bathroom.”  – Suz

Food preferences count as accessibility

“I have MS and walk with a wheeled walker. A while back I was in my favorite restaurant and ordered a meal. I asked if the meat could be cut up before it was brought to me. The server told me no. The cooks won’t do it. They find it not pleasing to other diners. I got up and left. I wasn’t in the mood to complain to management or to argue.” – @coastalrain07

Better floorplans, please!

“I have recently begun using a tall upright rolling walker because of increasing scoliosis. Now I am discovering how narrow the aisles are between booths and tables and how little space there is for my walker. Not long ago, I was taken to lunch at a restaurant where the booth seats were very close to the table and so low that it was uncomfortable to eat. To stand was impossible without assistance from two people. I wasn’t embarrassed, but my helpers were.” – @treknun

“My husband just loves buffets, so in my wheelchair I can’t see what they have to offer and the labels are way up top. I usually have to ask for menu items because I get pinned in by chairs from the other guests.” – Auna N.

“I once had to climb a super steep and narrow staircase at a fancy restaurant to get to my table and of course I ended up having to go to the bathroom shortly after being seated, so I had to go all the way back down the stairs. These stairs were even difficult for the person I was with — who is able-bodied — to navigate without bumping into someone. This restaurant had no elevator and was super crowded. I can’t imagine how it would’ve been had I brought a mobility aid with me. The sensory overload of such a crowded place wasn’t great at first, either.” – Skye G.

Sometimes you just have to laugh

“When I request no dairy, I’m given extra sour cream and extra cheese. That about sums it up.” – @silverlining42

“A friend of mine who I was at uni with in 1992 is in a wheelchair. We went to a pizzeria and she asked where the toilets were, only to be told, ‘They’re downstairs, is that OK?’ She said, Do I look like it would be OK? On another occasion she was at the cinema and transferred to a seat. A cinema operative came along and started to take away her chair. She asked what they were doing: ‘It’s a fire risk.’ She said, ‘Don’t be so daft, it’s a wheelchair, it’s not going to spontaneously combust. How will I get out if there’s a fire? Leave it where it is.’” – Jenn

See anything missing from this list? We’d love to hear from you! Log in or sign up for a Mighty account to add to the comments.

Originally published: July 26, 2022
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home