By Ahmat Djouma
When a person who is blind or visually impaired is considering dining out, they often have to think about whether the restaurant has an accessible menu. My personal approach is to check out the menu before I get to the restaurant. Menus4ALL is a website that provides accessible menus for 50,000 restaurants in more than 12,000 cities in the United States. You can search by your zip-code or your current location. More of the restaurant listings are in major cities. You can access the menus with a computer or an iDevice. To learn more about Menus4ALL, read the transcript interview of an interview from Blind Abilities with Stephanie Jones from Menus4ALL.
Another website for finding out about accessible menus is Blindline ®. Blindline® is “a fully accessible web site created by VISIONS (Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired) in collaboration with the American Foundation for the Blind to provide direct access to a New York statewide database of organizations and services for people who are blind or visually impaired, their family members, counselors, and other professionals.” You can select a category like advocacy, restaurant, or other areas of interest and type in your zip-code. It will provide you with resources in your chosen category along with additional information such as hours of operations and other offerings. For example, if you choose the restaurant category, it will show you a list of restaurants near you and if they have braille menus available.
With the proliferation of internet and digital information, braille menus may not always be necessary. As long as the digital information meets accessibility standards, menus can be posted online for everyone to access, as they increasingly are, especially during the pandemic. Restaurants change their menus frequently and this poses challenges to providing them in braille since every time a change is made, the restaurant would need to get the menu converted into braille. While some large national chains do offer braille menus, electronic versions of menus are accessible to most people and restaurants can update them easily as they make the change. Read the commentary from The Chicago Lighthouse.
For another perspective on the topic, check out the You Tube video from Tommy Edison, who has been blind since birth, Do Restaurants Have Braille Menus?