> Barrier-Free Restaurant

The old saying “Food is the god of the masses” shows that eating is a big thing in people’s life. The able-bodied can dine in any restaurant as long as they have the money, but not so to the physically handicapped, especially wheelchair users.

In Hong Kong, most restaurants on the ground floor have a step. The able-bodied can easily access with a lift of foot. To wheelchair users, however, the step warns against entry.

Very often, kind-hearted passers-by may say, “We can lift you up.” They can manage it in case of an ordinary manual wheelchair, but for the 200- or 300-lb electric models, the user may not rest reassured even if the helpers said they can manage it.

Imagine you were a wheelchair user looking for a place to eat and find that all restaurants along the street stand behind a step. You see a shopping mall in a distance. Thinking that the restaurants there have no step, you approach happily only to discover that it is just another shopping mall behind a step.

A security guard tells you to use the cargo lift at the mall’s backdoor. You move through a back alley full of rubbish, reach the back door and wait patiently for the cargo lift.

The cargo lift of the 7-storey mall also serves the offices at the 40th level. You do not mind to wait. After a while, a fully loaded lift opens its door. A cargo worker pokes his head out of the goods and says, “Next turn please!”. The ruthless lift shuts the door. Several lifts have come but they are all fully loaded. Finally, a little space is available in one of the lifts, you immediately squeeze yourself in.

Getting out of the lift door, you pass through several heavy fire resisting doors. All kinds of restaurants are found in the mall, but all crowded. You find a less crowded one, but the dining booths and fixed chairs give you no space to park your wheelchair. You leave for another restaurant. When you are waiting for a seat at another restaurant, the waiter meets you with a broad smile and says, “It may take quite a while to arrange wheelchair-friendly seat, do you mind to wait?”

This always happens to wheelchair users who dine out.

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