Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a disability that prevents you from enjoying some of the most basic things life has to offer? Well, if you haven’t, now is the time to start. 

61 million Americans have a disability.

To make their lives easier, restaurants are asked to adapt their premises so every guest can enjoy their service.

If you’re not sure how to make your restaurant disability-friendly, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about ADA restaurants.

What Is An ADA Restaurant?

The American with Disabilities Act, or ADA, protects consumers with disabilities by setting forth guidelines businesses must follow to make their services accessible. Because of this, the Department of Justice requires restaurants to reflect ADA’s rules in their building and facilities.

Following are some of the most important rules you’ll need to follow. 

1. Make Your Entryway Accessible

ADA guidelines for restaurants ensure parking spaces are close to the building and have ample room for vehicles with wheelchair ramps. Your entrance must be at the end of a ramp, complete with a slight slope and safety rails. If your employee entrance is more accessible, make that door available to customers with disabilities.

Further, your doors (entrance and otherwise) must be 36-inches wide to accommodate wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Post clear signs and give directions if necessary. All signs, such as those for restrooms, should be written in braille too. 

If there are any bushes or trees near the entrance, ensure they’re not low-hanging as they could be a hazard for someone with low vision. 

Businesses must have the International Symbol of Accessibility at the accessible entrance. Alongside this, display key accessibility information about parking and highlight any other services you offer.

2. Accessible Seating 

You must lower counters in your restaurant to ensure they’re ADA-compliant. Don’t store or display items on them and if there are any steps or edges, mark them with high-visibility colors so they can’t be missed.

If your business has a table or a bar seating area, add an accessible seating space for wheelchair users. These tables must be 30 inches wide, 17 inches deep, and 27 inches high so there’s plenty of space. And you must have a top that is between 28 inches and 34 inches. 

Temporary seating for a special event must also include accessible tables. Chairs can be removed to accommodate those who remain in their wheelchairs or scooters for dining. 

Also, if a mobility device (e.g. crutches) is in the way, ask the owner’s permission to you can move it out of the way of guests and employees.  

3. Wide Walkways 

The ADA asks for 30 inches of clearance on either side of an aisle for wheelchair access. Wide aisles are also more comfortable for others with mobility disabilities such as those who carry walkers.

Wider walkways ensure disabled guests won’t have to ask diners if they can move their chairs for extra room.  

4. Provide Employee Training

You must train employees so they know how to facilitate customers with disabilities. 

Your employees should read written documents, like menus, to customers who are blind or have low vision. Employees must also exchange notes with customers who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have difficulty speaking. Always have a pad ready for this purpose! 

Language is also important. You must refer to someone with a disability as a “handicapped” person instead of “disabled”. And, someone “uses” a wheelchair rather than being “confined” to one. 

5. Build Accessible Restrooms

To accommodate disabled guests, offer separate bathrooms so they have additional privacy and space.

The ADA has minimum guidelines which include installing handrails to help guests balance and low sinks so guests can easily reach them. You should also install braille and raised lettering against a high-contrast background. Doors can be heavy, so adjust closers so they’re easier to open. Finally, ensure pathways are always cleared.      

6. Welcome Service Animal Into Your Establishment 

According to the ADA, service dogs are trained to work or perform tasks for those with disabilities. But it’s important to note, those who only provide emotional support or comfort do not qualify.

Service animals must be under control of the handler at all times and they can go in all areas where the public goes. People with service animals have disabilities that affect strength, dexterity, or mobility so they may need assistance carrying trays.
If you’re unsure whether it’s a service animal, ask:

  • Do you need this animal because of a disability?
  • What works or tasks has this animal been trained to perform?

Remember not all disabilities are visible so be sensitive when asking. 

7. Offer Paper Straws 

There are people with disabilities who find it difficult to lift or hold glasses, cups, or other beverage containers. And although there is no ADA rule requiring you to do so, offering straws can be invaluable to these guests.

If your business is environmentally conscious, add whole paper straws to every table. Or, if you have a large business, buy white paper straws bulk so guests can drink hassle-free. 

8. Give Guests Extra Time

Never rush those with a disability especially if they have mobility issues. This is because they may exert a lot of physical energy moving from the car to their seat in the restaurant. 

Guests may need extra time to settle before they’re ready to order. If you rush them, they’ll think you’re rude and trying to get them out quickly.

This is the same for leaving. Be considerate of the time it will take them to leave and know they may need extra help leaving the restaurant too. 

And That’s Everything About ADA Restaurants!

ADA restaurants have requirements to ensure handicapped people are comfortable inside your establishment. Make sure the entryway is accessible and signs are written in braille and have high-contrast backgrounds. 

You must train employees to ensure they’re patient, sensitive, and go the extra mile to make their guests comfortable. Paper straws are a great way to do this, as some disabled patrons may not be able to lift their glass. And ensure bathrooms align with ADA guidelines so guests are comfortable and safe.

Are you ready to bring paper straws to your eatery? If so, we’d love to chat. Contact us here for more details.