Below are some guidelines to help you rate a restaurant for accessibility through the Rolling Gourmet program. Bring a tape measure with you, you’ll need it!
Parking and Entrance: If parking is provided, there should be at least one space that is 8 feet wide with an adjacent access aisle that is also 8 feet wide. This space must be designated by a sign 60 inches from the ground, mounted on a post or mounted on a building, directly in front of the space.
If getting from the car through the front door requires stepping over a curb or climbing stairs, ramps are required to provide wheelchair access. There should be a 36-inch wide path of travel that leads to a level landing in front of the entrance door, and the width of the door must be at least 32 inches wide when opened. Watch for double-entry doors where you get trapped in between the two sets of doors without enough room to maneuver.
Interior: Restaurants must provide an accessible route throughout, including access to the reception counter, dining areas and tables, the bar, buffet tables, and restrooms. Wait staff should be aware of the need to maintain a 36-inch wide path of travel throughout when people are seated at the tables and to avoid bumping into wheelchairs, canes, and crutches.
Objects should not stick out more than 4 inches from shelves or walls. If an item protrudes more than 4 inches, it could injure an individual who is blind or has limited vision. Watch for movable objects blocking access: trash cans, buckets, child seats, etc.
Lighting: Although low light dining is considered to be the norm, often this is a problem for people who have visual impairments. Be aware of the dining areas that provide stronger light than others.
Customer Service: If a customer with a disability asks for assistance, does the wait staff find out what kind of assistance is needed and not make assumptions? Reading a menu is an acceptable alternative to providing a Braille menu, but large print menus should be available (printed in size 18 font or higher). Wait staff should speak directly to the person who has a disability when asking them for their order. If a customer has a cane, walker, crutches or wheelchair, the wait staff should not ask to store these items elsewhere, and should acknowledge when they bump into people while seated in their wheelchairs.
If ordering alcohol, requiring a form of photographic identification is acceptable, but they must accept a valid non-driver’s identification card in cases when the customer does not have a driver’s license.
Food Service Areas: If there is a self-service area for condiments, utensils, napkins, etc., these items should be no higher than 48 inches from the floor.
A food service line or buffet table must provide adequate maneuvering space for a person using a wheelchair to approach and move through the line. A minimum width of 36 inches should be provided with a 42-inch width preferred. If the line changes direction, such as a 180-degree turn, an extra wide turning space is needed. An alternative solution is to provide an accessible route around the queuing area. Staff should be available to assist in serving items from the buffet table.
Fixed Seating and Tables: An accessible table should have a surface height that is 28 - 34 inches above the floor. For adequate leg and knee clearance, there must be at least 27 inches of clearance between the floor and the underside of the table. There should be a clear floor area 30 inches by 48 inches at each accessible seating location. This clear floor area extends 19 inches under the table to provide leg and knee clearance. If tables are provided, such as in restaurants and snack bars, and the tables are attached to the wall or floor (fixed), then 5% of the tables or at least one (if less than 20 are provided) must be accessible. These requirements also pertain to bars. Raised or sunken areas should be accessible by ramp or lift. Staff should refrain from asking a customer if they are willing to get out of their wheelchair.
Service Counters: There should be an area of clear floor space in front of the service counter that measures a minimum of 30 inches by 48 inches. At least one portion of the checkout counter should be no higher than 36 inches from the floor, and at least 36 inches long. If the counter is inaccessible, there should at least be a clipboard for signing receipts, or a nearby table that is no higher than 36 inches from the floor.
Restrooms: The width of the door to the restroom should be 32 inches clear when opened and should open easily. A wheelchair accessible restroom should have a toilet that is 17-19 inches from the floor, with grab bars mounted on the wall behind and on the wall to the side of the toilet (this grab bar should be no further than 18 inches from the toilet). The toilet paper dispenser should be no further than 9 inches from the front of the toilet. There should be clear floor space that measures 60 x 60 inches to allow for a wheelchair to turn around. The sink should be no higher than 34 inches from the floor with hardware that is operable with a closed fist (lever faucets), and all dispensers should be no higher than 48 inches from the floor. The door swing should not interfere with access to the sink or the toilet.
Policies and Procedures: If a restaurant has a policy to exclude all animals, the policy must be changed to permit people who use service animals to enter with their service animals. A restaurant that has a separate wheelchair accessible entrance needs to ensure that the door remains unlocked during the hours of operation. If security is a problem, an accessible call box or buzzer (identified by a sign and mounted in an accessible location and height) should be installed to enable people with disabilities to notify staff of their presence. A restaurant cannot restrict seating of people with disabilities to one area.
Communication with Customers: Does the restaurant make accommodations for customers who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or who have speech impairments do not communicate vocally? Are the staff willing to exchange written notes or use a mixture of speech, gestures, and written notes if requested? Does the staff ask the customer about their preference for communication and avoid raising their voice?
Need more information? Give us a call:
Julia Freeman-Woolpert, Disabilities Rights Center, 1-800-834-1721.