Help, but please don’t grab me! Accessibility in a restaurant

As my sight has slowly deteriorated over the years, I have reluctantly started to accept more assistance from other people. But sometimes, even when they have the best intentions, they don’t go about it in the right way.

In early January when travelling home from a short trip to Southampton, I stopped off at a restaurant outside London Euston railway station before catching my final connection home to Stockport. I’m not going to mention which chain this restaurant belongs to, but it’s one of my favourites (and thankfully my experience hasn’t put me off!).

Upon arriving at the restaurant, I waited just inside the door to be seated by a host. For those who don’t already know – I walk with a white cane, so my visual impairment is fairly obvious. A young lady approached me and said she’d have a table ready in a moment.

Shortly after, she returned and completely by surprise grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to a table. This was quite an alarming experience for me as someone with some limited vision, I can only imagine how frightening this might be for someone with no sight at all. Also, I suffer with anxiety which can make me feel very awkward about addressing this sort of thing, so I just sort of went with it.

Once I was seated, she asked if I needed someone to help me read the menu. I explained that I would be fine using the one on my phone, and she left my to place my order.

The rest of the meal was uneventful, the waiting staff were extremely kind, and the food was enjoyable. But I couldn’t help but mull over the fact I’d been dragged across the room by a stranger and it made me feel quite uncomfortable. I kept running through other scenarios in my head; what if someone had done this outside? What if someone had done it when I was walking home in the dark?

When I got home, I emailed the restaurant chain’s Customer Support Team. I made it very clear that I didn’t want to make a complaint, but wanted them to spend some time with the team in this particular branch. It was clear they wanted to do their best to help, but unfortunately were going about it in completely the wrong way. A way which could cause alarm to some guests.

I think it’s really important that companies spend some time with their employees to show them the right way of doing things. If I’d complained and they’d been told off, it might make them feel uncomfortable about helping another disabled guest in the future – and that’s not what I want at all. I want their employer to give them the training and resources that they need to give every guest amazing customer service, no matter what their needs are.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, my advice would be to just ask how you can help. Try not to be too pushy, and don’t make any assumptions. It’ll be greatly appreciated.