How to Improve Accessibility With Just Your Phone

A blonde woman looking at her phone in front of her open laptop, in a light airy room with plants and art in the background

As a person who uses a wheelchair, I can’t tell you the number of hours I have spent googling bars, restaurants, shops, and various venues in my city. Mind you, some of this time is spent eyeing a new restaurant menu – but the rest of the time is spent trying to find out if the venue is wheelchair accessible. You would think this would be easy to find out, but let me tell you it requires considerable detective work that can often lead to a dead end. 

The Detective Work Begins… 

After having an internal struggle between Italian or Greek food, I’ve finally made a decision to check out a highly anticipated Italian restaurant for dinner with a friend. With the place chosen, it’s now time to find out if it’s wheelchair accessible. The process starts with a simple Google search to see if the Google business page has “Accessibility Attributes” (e.g., wheelchair accessible entrance, bathrooms, etc.). If the information isn’t there, I’ll browse their website and get their contact info. I’ll then try calling them, which usually goes straight to voicemail or I’ll try emailing them, which often takes days to get a response. Next, I’ll try their Instagram, Facebook, Yelp, or in a last-ditch effort I’ll look up the “live view” on the Google map to zoom in on the business to see if there is a step to get in. You’d be surprised the number of times a car is parked directly in front of the entrance when Google captures the image – making it just about impossible to see if it’s accessible. 

The Final Result

Without the accessibility info, I have to decide if: 

  • I’ll just wing it and go find out in person, OR 
  • I’ll start from scratch and find a new place to go to.

Neither choice is ideal, especially when I’m hungry! 

So How Can You Prevent This Unnecessary Detective Work?

It’s as easy as updating your online presence from your phone! Whether your business has always been accessible or recently became accessible with a fabulous StopGap ramp, you can update your online info.

  Front entrance to The Caledonian Pub with a bright red rap next to a chalkboard display sign

It only takes a few minutes to add this info to your Google business page (under “Accessibility Features”), website, Instagram, Facebook, or Yelp page. There is also a fantastic app called “AccessNow that uses crowd sourcing to share accessibility information on various venues. This app allows users to search for bars, restaurants, and other businesses to find out their “accessibility rating” (e.g., wheelchair accessible entrance, but no accessible washroom, etc.). 

With so many new places popping up and changes being made to improve older establishments, it can be a challenge to keep the information up to date. This is where YOU can help by updating your own businesses’ accessibility info as well as other places you visit. It’s also beneficial to share information about venues that are not accessible. Imagine the frustration of craving a delicious truffle pasta only to get all the way to the restaurant and find out it’s inaccessible? Unfortunately, this scenario can be all too familiar for a person who uses a wheelchair. Sharing this info online can help prevent this disappointment while simultaneously shedding light on the current need for greater accessibility. 

With most of us at home practicing social/physical distancing, now is a great time to get on your phone and help improve accessibility!

4 Comments

  • By Nacia Miller

    This is great. You describe exactly my process when I’m checking accessibility of a restaurant. And when a car is blocking the google map shot … aargh!

    • By Holly Noon

      Thanks so much Nacia. It always tends to be the case with a car directly in front of the entrance, hopefully google can snap some updated car-free pics!

  • By Marion Fraser

    You are correct, Holly. Great article.

    • By Holly Noon

      Thanks so much Marion 🙂

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