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Imagine you're a café or restaurant owner, how would you look after your visually impaired/blind patrons?

I recognize my own ignorance here. In my years teaching college, I have had several blind students, but I still really have no idea what's involved in navigating life with that situation. I know enough, though, to know such folks are plenty capable—differently abled more so than disabled. The problem usually lies with assumptions those of us who are sighted make.

I am also ignorant of what's really involved in owning a café or restaurant.

So I'm offering these that seem to make sense, and I'm quite willing to get educated in comments by people who actually know what they're talking about.

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Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

    1. Don't assume blind people are helpless.

    2. Don't assume every visually-challenged person has the same experiences. Ask how you can help.

    3. Train wait staff to watch for cues of what's needed.

    For instance, most of us needing to get the attention of wait staff will watch for them, make eye contact, maybe make a slight gesture to indication a need for attention. If the blind person is with a sighted person, s/he can let them handle that, but if the blind person is alone, wait staff should pay extra attention since the blind person may not know when they are close by.

    4. Provide an app with menu.

    Most restaurants have an online menu of some sort. Make sure you not only have one, but that it works with a screen reader. Go further, since screen readers may have to go through the entire page on a web site: make a searchable menu with audio associated specifically with each entry.

    5. Keep pathways clear, between the door and the table, and between the table and the restrooms.

    6. Give brief, polite directions to the restrooms.

    Especially if the blind person is alone. They cannot crane around to scope out the likeliest location.

    7. For those with guide dogs, provide a place for the dog to sit or lie down right beside his/her person.

    Extra: bring a water bowl for the dog.

    8. Without isolating them, try to provide a relatively quiet location.

    As someone who teaches communication skills, I know most of us combine listening with visual cues far more than we realize. A lot of us experienced this during the pandemic when mask-wearing limited our ability to lip read along with using our ears. Of course, visually-challenged folks cannot depend on lip reading in any situation. It is likely a myth that when you lose your sight your other sense get sharper—you probably just pay more attention to them. When I visit with friends in a noisy restaurant, I can still carry on a conversation as long as I can see the other person's unmasked face. So I would assume that a noisy background will make it harder to carry on a conversation with table mates when you can't see them. Hence the suggested quiet location.

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