August 10, 2013

Designing Restaurants for the Visually Impaired

Braille Language in Wimpy

What do you like to order Sir?
What would a visually impaired person answer to the waiter if he have not tasted the food before, if he was not accommodated with the menu? If it was his first time to the restaurant?
We eat with our eyes before we eat with our mouths..And sometimes even we have tasted the food before, if we dont see or atleast read about it, we would be confused to choose our lunch or our dinner.
Surely the sense of seeing is crucial in food choices.
Yet when we consider any visual disability as a difference, and not as a problem, it brings us very interesting concepts and ideas, especially in the food industry.

Some restaurant menus introduce Braille language to help customers with visual impairment. Braille language uses punctures on paper so that it could be read with fingers.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require restaurants to offer Braille menus as long as servers or other workers can adequately read menus out loud. Reading menus is considered an adequate replacement and an option that meets the requirements of the ADA.

Benefits of having Braille menus?

  1. It tells your visually impaired guests that you are paying attention to their needs and you’re concerned about making them feel welcome. As a restaurateur knows, making guests feel welcome is an integral part of a successful eatery. Just this one step alone can earn a restaurant a loyal customer for life.
  2. Second, a Braille menu eliminates the embarrassment for restaurant employees whose reading skills make menu recitation a challenge. When their reading skills are not optimal, a visually impaired guest may not be able to fully understand all available menu options.
  3. When you supply a visually impaired guest with a Braille menu, you are freeing up your servers to pay equal attention to all their guests. Otherwise, the server is required to give special attention to the visually impaired customer; something that could interfere with his or her ability to adequately serve others. For the server, it could even mean a significant difference in the amount of tips earned.

According to,  a 15-year-old girl, Sophie Trist, translated most of Louisiana restaurant menus into Braille. Trist charges $20 per menu, but the menus can be a real help to visually impaired people. Trist, who is blind herself, tells the Louisiana Restaurant Association,"If a sighted person does not accompany me [to a restaurant], the simple task of ordering off of a menu becomes a challenge."

One famous campaign launched was Braille Burger Buns in Wimpy
Braille messages meticulously made of sesame seeds let the visually impaired know that fast food chain Wimpy in South Africa has braille menus for the blind. This video of the project has helped spread the message to over one million people.

Even Mcdonald's "imitated" wimpy later and introduced the Braille alphabet by using sesame on the burger buns!

Starbucks introduced as well Braille Language and Big Print Versions of their menus.

I did a quick review of restaurants that use this language here in KSA.
Kudu offers Braille food Menu for blinds in all its outlets, as part of kudu social responsibility. ( Read More)
Kudu and" Kafeef" 
Even Shawarmer  fast food  chain ( the Biggest Shawarma local chain in KSA) introduced these menus ( Read More about the campaign)

Shawarmer 's Braille Menu

Other non conventional ways of bringing convenient menus to the impaired was having menus that talk, like that one by the famous Italian restaurant chain Olive Garden .
Another is the Odor Menu! A menu that sends odor and smell of the food you want to order!

" There is more than meets the eye!" Even in Food!"

Why would blind people dine with non-blind ones? Why wouldnot it be the other way around? 
 Fine dining added a new activity: dining in the dark.
With the complete loss of vision — and the resulting heightening of the other four senses — an evening at Germany's first-ever dark restaurant is an extraordinary culinary adventure. "You smell better, you are more receptive to differences in texture, consistency and temperature,".
Dans Le Noir  has a vision: to raise awareness of the visually impaired, by staffing the restaurant with blind waiters or “guides.”(
Another restaurant is , Opaque - Dining in the Dark – will seat you in a literally pitch-black dining room where you will be guided and served by blind or visually impaired individuals that have been specially trained to serve meals in the dark, casually and comfortably offering guidance and reassurance for sighted guests.
Dans le Noir? dining in the dark restaurant new york

In the meantime, consider adding Braille menus if you’re a restaurant owner or manager. It is the right thing to do for your visually impaired customers. If you’re one of those customers, encourage your favorite restaurants to support visually impaired guests with menus they can read. Owners and managers may not even be aware that there’s any real need.

P.S: I havent seen Braille menus in Lebanon but if you found any restaurant who did introduce this, please send or share it with me! I will be much grateful!

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