(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Over 70,000 people – nearly 11 percent – in Washington, DC have a disability, according to the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). While businesses often build accessibility plans with wheelchairs in mind, people with disabilities can face many other challenges when attempting to patronize restaurants in the District. As a proactive effort, the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) and its partners today launched an initiative to address those challenges by distributing accessibility guidebooks and by asking restaurants to take a pledge to be “accessibility friendly.”
Restaurants that agree to take the pledge can request a “We Pledge to Be Accessibility Friendly” window decal that symbolizes its desire to be a welcoming place for people with disabilities. Methods to become more accessibility friendly are provided in the guidebook, which was written by AAPD and commissioned by the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) in partnership with the DC Office of Disability Rights, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW).
“We hope to see restaurant corridors across the District lined with storefronts displaying these window decals, which state their pledge to be an accessibility friendly restaurant,” said OHR Director Mónica Palacio. “But more importantly, we hope these restaurants will use the guidebook as a tool for making their restaurant pleasant places for people with disabilities to dine with their family and friends.”
The guidebook provides restaurateurs with information about the economic benefits of accessibility and provides ways to make establishments more accessible. Examples include online reservation capabilities for those deaf or hard of hearing, or training wait staff to read the menu to patrons who are blind or low-vision. District agencies, RAMW and other community members have offered assistance in distributing the guidebook.
“Our members here in the District want to create space for all who wish to access a restaurant and enjoy food and fellowship,” said RAMW Managing Director Julie Sproesser. “Our members are always looking for ways to enhance their business practices and make their establishment a staple choice in the neighborhood. We are excited to contribute to this great effort and hope to see tangible results in the future.”
Over the next few months, OHR plans to work with community partners to conduct direct outreach to restaurants. This will entail visiting high-traffic corridors that are home to many restaurants, and hand-delivering the guidebook and window decals.
For more information about our work on restaurant accessibility or to download the guidebook Serving All: A Guide to Being Accessible for Your Customers and Community, visit ohr.dc.gov/accessibleDC. To request a “We Pledge to Be Accessibility Friendly” window decal for your restaurant, email the business name and address to [email protected].