When it comes to the long-standing debate – “does height really matter?” My answer is yes (but not for reasons you might expect). Most people obsess over height when it comes to a potential date, but for me, it has more to do with the height of a table. I get this might sound strange, so let me explain why a low-top versus a high-top table can make all the difference.
So What’s the Problem with High Top Tables?
High top tables are often seen in bars and restaurants as a way to save space and spark conversation between those sitting on bar stools and people standing. However, as a person using a wheelchair, this “mix and mingle setting” gets quickly squashed if I am unable to discreetly transfer onto one of those high bar stools. At this point, I find myself yelling at my friends or worse (a date), so they can hear me from under the table while I eat dinner on my lap. Let me tell you I have no interest in paying $25 for a burger to eat like I’m at a backyard BBQ.
This high top predicament has happened on multiple occasions, but one time that stands out was when I went on a date with a guy a few years ago. I was a bit more naive back then and decided to let him take the reins on picking the spot. I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the bar and saw there were no steps to get in (bonus points for him), but when I turned the corner, I realized there were only high top booths and tables. I felt awkward and didn’t want to make a big fuss, so I proceeded to basically drink my gin and soda under the table. Luckily the guy took a hint, and we ditched the bar for one down the street with lower seating and more natural conversation. I think it was a great learning experience for both of us. I learned to be more vocal, and I think he learned how awkward high booths can be for wheelchair users.
How Can We Improve This High Top Problem?
In an ideal world, restaurants and bars would already have tables varying in height to suit accessibility needs. However, it can be as easy as having a few lower seating options in restaurants that are kept on reserve. This way, if a customer has accessibility needs, they can be comfortably seated without having to wait twice as long for an appropriate table. If space is an issue, keep 1 or 2 lower tables in the back that can be readily brought out.
Over the summer, I went to a happy hour with some friends at a bar called Kings Tap. Unfortunately, it turned into a less than “happy hour” when we realized they only had high top seating. Luckily this disappointment didn’t last long, though. The manager was quick thinking and promptly moved a lower table to the bar area, allowing us to be included in the cheap drinks and entertainment! To the manager, this may not have seemed like a big deal, but to me, it meant a lot.
Whether you work in the restaurant industry or know someone who does, you can recommend that they incorporate some of these easy modifications to support accessibility and inclusion!