I like to think that when I’m not in the middle of a panic-inducing week (or month, or year) I’m a fun person to hang out with. I have been blessed with friends, coworkers, neighbors, and family members who want to hang out with us. We enjoy a good time and good food – who doesn’t love that?
Sometimes though, it’s difficult to articulate why it’s hard to do the things that typical families can do. It may also help typical families understand why caregivers and their families are so prone to being isolated – a lot goes into planning a restaurant outing for us and sometimes, it’s just too much effort.
This is my go-to list of questions I ask when we’re invited to go and do something at a restaurant we’ve never been to before.
- Is their ample accessible parking available at this place or is valet available? We don’t do street parking. Period.
- Is there a ramp to get into the space, or is the space level to the ground? A ramp seems like an obvious thing for all public restaurants to have, but it’s not – and it’s better to ask in advance than to show up and have to leave because you can’t even get into the space.
- Is this a restaurant or an ice house? This seems like a silly question, but picnic-style ice houses are common in our big city and many of them have gravel instead of concrete for the outdoor area. Gravel is difficult to maneuver a wheelchair through, so unless it’s absolutely necessary this would be a hard pass for us. Also – if the restaurant does not offer an air-conditioned area in the warmer months, we’re also going to pass. Many people with chronic conditions (and those taking certain medications) are temperature sensitive which makes them prone to heat-related illnesses.
- Is there a wheelchair accessible bathroom? Depending on when building was built, there may not be an accessible bathroom available. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. This is especially true in cities or towns with long-standing establishments.
- Is the accessible bathroom a single-stall bathroom (ideal) or is someone of the opposite gender allowed into the restroom to assist? If you are a female caring for a male, or a male caring for a female – this question is essential. Some places won’t allow you to go in to assist and will require somebody of the same gender to go in with your person. This is extremely frustrating – and in my opinion, violates protections against discrimination for people with disabilities.
- Will this place make accommodations for a guest in a wheelchair? There are restaurants that may have accessible parking, ramps, and bathrooms – but can’t move furniture around to make the space accommodating for someone with mobility challenges. We visited a very posh restaurant for an anniversary some time ago – it was an updated space with valet parking and a lovely interior – but they had the narrowest spaces between tables and the hallway that separated the restaurant from the bathroom was too narrow to turn a wheelchair around in. It was one of those “eye roll” moments.
Asking these questions up front of the person making the plans – or asking them if they are okay with you confirming that the place of choice it is fully accessible – has made for better dialogue between our friends/family. It shows that we want to be included in plans, but we have some limitations that must be taken into consideration.