Illustration by Victoria Borges
There are many kinds of disabilities. Some are invisible: Heart disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis and many other ailments may cause you to wonder why a fairly mobile person parks in the handicapped spot, but they’re deserving of the space all the same. Some disabilities are clearer: people who don’t walk well but can walk a little, or perhaps navigate a manual wheelchair. For some, like me, finding an accessible restaurant in Richmond can be a nightmare.
My situation is difficult. I am a large woman in a 375-pound power chair. It takes at least 26 inches to get me through a door, and this chair will not go over most rises without a ramp. Some of the city’s accessible restaurants have double doors, but it’s very hard for anyone to get past a chair and open the second door. Only a few places in town have power doors, and they are a delight when I find them. In the older parts of town, like the Museum District, the Fan, Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom, there is little to no handicapped parking. There are a few places with valet parking, which makes it very easy, but when visiting restaurants in the historic districts, it’s catch as catch can.
So what’s a restaurant to do? If you’re starting from scratch, don’t install double doors, and make your entrances wide. There are portable ramps available, which a restaurant could deploy, then fold in half and set aside until the patron needs to exit. If you’re opening a restaurant, be aware of local parking spots and lots, and if your website tells me where to park, that makes it easier. When you plan the bathroom, install a railing on both sides of the toilet, and make the bathroom large enough for an attendant to help. If you have stairs, make sure they have railings. And please put details on your website; I’m not willing to drive, planning to eat dinner, only to discover I cannot get in.
I appreciate each and every one of the restaurant owners and chefs who make it possible for me to eat the fabulous food available in Richmond, and with a little awareness and a few minor changes, we can make this incredible restaurant town accessible for all. Roll on!
A few of RVA’s accessible restaurants:
Acacia Mid-town, Can Can, Fleming’s, Kuba Kuba Dos, Lemaire, Metzger Bar & Butchery, Pasture, Patina Bar And Grill, Rappahannock, The Roosevelt, Secco Wine Bar, Southbound, Tazza Kitchen (Short Pump)