Commentary: Braille Restaurant Menus Are Still Hard To Find

A few weeks ago, the picture of a teenager who is blind reading a Red Robin Braille menu went viral on social media. Annalicia Herrera has been blind all of her life, but it wasn’t until she was 18 years-old that she could finally read a restaurant menu on her own. Annalicia and her family were pleasantly surprised when the hostess at a Red Robin restaurant brought her a menu in Braille. Shortly after Annalicia’s sister tweeted the photo of the Braille menu, it went viral and received over 300,000 likes and 100,000 retweets.

While Annalicia’s experience was seen by thousands of people on Twitter, this scenario is all too common for those of us who are blind or severely visually impaired. In fact, it is still rare to find restaurants that offer Braille menus. Large chain restaurants, such as Cracker Barrel, Red Lobster, Chili’s and Applebee’s carry menus in Braille. Nevertheless, given the constant tweaks and updates to these menus, the Braille versions often become outdated. It is not that restaurants let the menus become outdated on purpose, but rather the wait staff is often unaware they even exist. It is for this reason that while I know that these restaurants offer Braille menus, I am hesitant to request one. After all, what good does it do to receive a menu containing meals that restaurants no longer sell?

While I wish more restaurants had menus in Braille, I am not necessarily discouraged from trying new places because of this. Nowadays, the majority of restaurants post their menus on the internet. If the menu is accessible with my screen-reading software, I am able to read it on my own. Of course, since listening to these menus isn’t convenient while I am at a noisy restaurant, I often read them prior to getting there. This helps me decide – or at the least begin thinking about – what I would like to eat. A while ago, we posted about Tappy Menu, a mobile app offering accessible versions of popular restaurant menus. Along with Braille menus, this and similar apps can go a long way in making restaurant menus accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.

The recent tweet of Annalicia reading a Braille menu for the first time was popular for many reasons. First, it showed the general public how restaurants can and should become more inclusive and offer accommodations to guests with disabilities. Next, it helped people gain a better understanding of some of the accessibility challenges faced by those of us with vision loss. I hope this tweet and similar posts on social media will continue to create more awareness, and eventually help make the world a more inclusive place for people with disabilities.

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