I received a phone call the other night from Janice Coffey, and her story related so well to our business that I wanted you to hear the experience in her own words. No shameless plugs here, but she did think of us directly so I thought you’d like to hear the story!
On Monday, November 12, 2012 a couple of friends invited me to go out to enjoy dinner with them at a local steak house restaurant. (Just to mention, my friends and I are in our late fifty- years- YOUNG age group!)
A little background… let’s step back a few months.
I would also like to mention, that in August, I had brain surgery to remove a tumor. Due to post-operative problems (some double vision, numbness on the left side of my head, seizure medicine), I am currently not allowed to return to work or drive for a few months. Also, since I have trouble seeing clearly because of the double vision, especially when I look down to walk, at times, I need to hold on to someone’s arm to make sure I do not stumble or fall.
Now back to the story…
I am not allowed to drive at the present time because of the surgery, so one of my friends happily volunteered to pick me up, and we headed down the road to pick up our other friend so all of us could enjoy an evening out together.
Once we arrived, one of my friends asked the hostess, who kindly greeted us as we entered the restaurant, if we could be seated in a quiet area near the bar so we could talk and catch up on things. The hostess was very accommodating and suggested that we sit in the back corner in the bar area. My friends and I agreed, that was a quiet place to visit with each other, and that would be fine.
As we approached our table, I noticed two of the chairs on the floor in front of the table were tall chairs and you had to step up on a step on the other side of the table to sit on a padded bench. Plus the lights were dim to create a “cozy” atmosphere.
One of my friends decided to sit on one of the tall chairs, and the other friend decided to sit in the booth instead. She felt she would have trouble getting on and off the chair due to arthritis problems in her lower back. I too decided not to sit on the tall chair because of my double vision problems. I was afraid it could prevent me from seeing clearly to get on the chair and I may have trouble getting my footing and balance to reach the floor when we were ready to leave the restaurant. So I decided to sit on the padded bench on the other side of the table. I sat near the wall after a bit of help up the step, and my friend with arthritis sat beside me.
After enjoying our meal and a wonderful time together, we decided it was time to leave. When my friend, who was sitting on the end of the padded bench next to me, got off the padded bench first to leave, she did not notice the step and lost her footing and fell on the floor on her backside. As she was falling, she tried to grab the table to stop her fall, and in the process, knocked over her water glass and spilled water on the table, on the step, and spilled water on me as I was making a move to exit the table as well. Our waiter rushed over to help, and our other friend also helped to get our friend up off the floor as quickly as possible. A “female employee”, I presumed, (possibly one of the managers), also came over to see if our friend was “all right”.
After my friend was helped and was able to stand up, I noticed the” female employee” repeatedly asking my friend, “Are you all right?” My friend answered, “Yes”. However, my friend that fell was more concerned about me getting out of the booth without falling; not only because of my vision problems, but also because of the step and there was spilled water on the step and on the floor as well.
As I was helped out of the padded bench by my other friend, I noticed the reason my friend fell was probably because she did not see the step right away, due to the fact that the step was dark brown; and, that there was not anything on the edge of the step to warn her that it was there and to be careful (like a yellow strip or yellow paint).
My friend that fell did say to our waiter that she was more concerned about me being safe because I recently had brain surgery and she wanted to make sure I didn’t fall. I also thought if I had been sitting where she had been sitting, and I had exited the bench first and did not see the step and had fallen, I could have fallen on my head, which could have been very serious. I mentioned to our waiter and the “female employee” that they need to put yellow paint or a yellow strip on the step to draw attention that there is a step there! Then we left the restaurant and walked out into the parking lot there weren’t lots of lights for safety out there either!
It was also at that time that I immediately thought of the business, Universal Design Partners. They help businesses and other establishments make their environment safer and more comfortable for anyone. They are very helpful and professional, and would be great in advising this restaurant on how to correct this situation, and any other safety issues. They would even see other ways to make improvements to the restaurant to make it more comfortable for any individual no matter what their age, or medical/physical problems a person may have.
Even though we enjoyed the evening so much, it was a lesson to my two friends and me to always be aware of your surroundings no matter where you go to make sure you are safe and secure at all times.
A few more thoughts about Janice’s story. Two out of the three ladies had something going on with their body that was “invisible” and not seen by the waitress. Had they walked in with a walker or been pushing a wheelchair they might not have been seated at a table with tall chairs and a step to get into the booth. Well, we hope not. Yet, they were seated in this area. Even more reason for restaurants and other places in the community to rethink the way they design their spaces and incorporate universal design into the mix. Here’s another post we wrote about restaurants. Yes, putting a yellow strip would help people notice the step is there if tall tables/chairs remain in the restaurant, but many individuals just are uncomfortable or unable to safely use these tables, young and old.
At Universal Design Partners, we like to look at things in a way where the space can be flexible and safe to use by a variety of users, no matter their level of ability. Low tables and chairs at this restaurant would accommodate more people and be safer for the majority.
Thanks so much to Janice Coffey for sharing her experience!
Photo Credit: (danielhedrick)