Catering to differently abled is good business sense
Yesterday was recognised as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
I am legally blind with very limited vision. I have not always been blind. I lost my vision six years ago and since then I have had to learn to manoeuvre Bermuda in a different way. Up until then I thought little to nothing about how differently abled persons managed in Bermuda.
Now my white cane, my other senses and friendly assistance are valued daily reminders.
I was recently invited to lunch at a popular Warwick restaurant. The young person who serviced the table to which my party was assigned was unaware of my inability to find a seat or to seat myself.
At the conclusion of the meal, I took a few minutes to explain privately to the young server. He was very understanding and very open to learning how to assist differently abled persons in the future. In the end, he accompanied me to assist me out of my chair and escorted me to the door.
There are organisations in Bermuda who can provide training to personnel in the service industry as to how to accommodate differently abled customers in Bermuda. Some of those are Vision Bermuda under Vince Godberg, Inspire Bermuda and, Ageing and Disability Services
These organisations can train staff on methods to accommodate persons with different physical challenges. For those who are visually impaired such as myself, training would include that food service at restaurants would be accompanied by clear verbal explanations such as communicating to a customer when the hotplate is being brought to the table and how to direct to the customer where the food items or condiments have been placed.
An example would be to use directions such as would be on the hands of a clock: the vegetables are at 12 o’clock, the meat is at three o’clock, the starch is at six o’clock, the condiments are at nine o’clock.
Similarly, there is training available for staff as to how to assist other differently abled customers such as those with mobility or manipulation challenges or the hearing-impaired. Awareness of space requirements include suitable seating and place settings. Willing assistance when required or requested and cautionary signals are all included. Just as a restaurant provides highchairs for toddlers, they could provide a few specialised tables with adjustable heights for wheelchairs.
My purpose and intention are to increase awareness in Bermuda’s businesses of differently abled persons and persons with special needs. It is important to bring awareness to staff so that persons are not ignored, “invisible” or talked around to rather than directly to.
Other examples of simple accommodations that would be of great benefit to a person with limited vision could be that glass doors are marked with strips of yellow tape so that they can be distinguished as open or closed. Steps could be marked with distinguishable strips to indicate the edge of the steps. All businesses should be made aware that seniors may need a place to sit while waiting to be accommodated.
I would like to acknowledge that I did call back to make these comments, and the manager was appreciative of them and stated that he would be implementing such training for his staff. Making these services accessible for differently abled guests makes good business sense.