I went out to dinner with one of my friends several weeks ago. When we got to the restaurant, they requested that we get a large print menu, so that way I would be able to read it. The server looked at us like we were absolutely insane, and told us just to hold the menu closer to our faces. My friend was very surprised that there were no large print menus, or even Braille menus available, and figured it would be illegal to not have these menus available. Truth is, restaurants aren’t legally required to provide accessible menus, and I’m yet to encounter a large print menu anywhere. Here are some of my tips on how I navigate restaurants, even without large print available.
Read the menu online
Websites tend to be very good about accessibility and have PDF files or simple webpages for the menu. If I know where I am going ahead of time, I will browse the menu online and pick a few dishes I might want. For websites with poor contrast, I copy and paste the menu into a notepad or word processing program and increase the font.
Bring assistive technology
I often bring my SmartLux or use a magnification app on my phone to read menus on the go. The only pitfall is that lighting conditions can be less than ideal, or the fonts may be difficult to read, so this is not always reliable.
Have someone read you the menu
This is most discreet at places where the menu is printed on boards high off the ground. Have a staff member or friend read items off the menu. Alternatively, you can take a picture of the boards and then zoom in on the text.
Order the same thing as your friend
I tend to order the same thing as my friend if I find reading the menu too tedious or too frustrating. No one has ever found this weird, and we also haven’t worried about confusing plates or things like that. Luckily, a lot of my friends are used to me doing this. Sometimes they will even just scan the menu for me and order me something they think I will like.
Always get the same thing
While he doesn’t have low vision, my brother will often order the same thing every time he goes to a restaurant. Be it a burger, macaroni and cheese, or pizza, he says he never has to worry about reading a menu or being disappointed by trying a new thing. If you develop a rotation of a few dishes at a particular restaurant, you can order easily and not have to worry about menu drama.
Think about silverware
One of my friends has said that one of the most amusing things to watch is me attempting to cut food and cutting either very large pieces or weirdly small ones. When possible, I try to order foods that aren’t difficult to eat or that can’t easily spill. At a restaurant that my friend and I go to often, the server will make a note to cut food ahead of time so that way I am not so frustrated.
Advocate for accessible menus
With the aging population increasing and low vision becoming more common, the demand will only continue to grow for accessible menus. Encourage your favorite restaurants to print out a large print copy of the menu, or even order a Braille copy. All patrons should be able to order with dignity and order what they want.