Friend A is very understanding of my physical restrictions and goes way beyond the call of duty in taking them into consideration whenever we get together outside of our home to socialize. The venue for his company party was specifically chosen because it presented no access problems for me. There is a very, very small step at the entrance which I can manage and there is an elevator to use that takes guests downstairs to the private function room where this party was being held. There were about 130 guests, a live band and a lavish menu. The restaurant is in Tribeca, New York so Friend A. arranged for a car to come and pick us up. It took us about an hour and 15 minutes to get into the city.
In situations like this it is easier for me to use my wheelchair. It is quicker and I avoid having to be assisted into the seat at the table and then out of it if I want to stand around talking to people. The front of house manager greeted us and as he was directing us to the elevator he mentioned it was in fact out of order but that this was not a problem as his staff would carry me down the stairs. He got the proverbial, “Excuse me?” from me. When I saw the staircase and the fact that there were 25 stairs down I knew there was no way anyone was going to carry me down, and then up again. Because we had expected the elevator to be working, we had not brought my portable blocks with which might have been an option if there had not been that many stairs. He tried to assure me that the bottom of the staircase did not lead directly into the function room thinking that I was concerned about whether the guests already downstairs would see me being carried down or not. I explained to him as politely as I could that I didn’t give a shit about what anyone in the audience might think of me, but that being carried was unsafe and just a little humiliating.
Friend A. came charging up the stairs with Mrs. Friend A. and they were devastated that this was happening. I felt terrible as well as I knew how much DDTF had been looking forward to this party. I insisted that I didn’t mind sitting in the main restaurant while DDTF went downstairs for a while. To cut a long story short, DDTF and I went into the main restaurant and enjoyed a superb meal. Over the course of the evening, Friend A. and his wife took joining us in shifts and eventually, they brought 8 of the party guests upstairs, we moved to a bigger table and went on to have a ball. Friend A’s business partner was left to host the remainder of the evening downstairs.
The next day I contacted Friend A. and asked him if he would be ok with me writing to the restaurant manager. I emailed him a copy of my letter as I wanted him to be aware of the contents. He felt I was being too polite but had no objection to my sending it. I told him that I had no interest in writing a guns blazing letter but that I felt compelled to make my feelings known. Whenever I find myself in these situations, I always think about those people who don’t always have someone in their corner like I always do. Some people are inhibited by being less-abled than others. I feel a deep sense of responsibility toward raising awareness not only on my behalf, but on theirs too.
I sent the following letter to the owner of the restaurant:
December 12th, 2006
131 Duane Street
Tribecca, NY 10013
Dear Mr Meer
On Thursday evening last week my husband, Daniel and I visited your venue as guests of Mr. Friend A, at the (company name) party.
I am sure you are well aware of the fact that when we arrived at the restaurant we were informed that your elevator was in fact out of order and had been since that morning.
In spite of the fact that we went on to enjoy a lovely meal in the main restaurant and were later joined by our gracious hosts and some of his other guests, I felt compelled to write to you.
It is so often that disabled people are overlooked and the importance of access to facilities is dismissed as unimportant. The gentleman who greeted us at the door was in the most polite of ways convinced that it would be perfectly acceptable to me to be carried down the stairs by your staff members. While this was a generous offer, I think it is crazy that anyone can make the assumption that a person in a wheel chair will find this acceptable.
Given that I might have arrived in an automated wheel chair, it would have been too heavy for anyone to carry me down. There is of course also the safety aspect. I can assure you that handing yourself over to a group of people to get you safely down and up a flight of stairs can be extremely nerve wracking.
Although disabled patrons might not be in the majority, we are people of value like any other guests that visit your venue. When you know someone is coming who is going to rely on the elevator being in working condition, you should check it several times a day to ensure its reliability. The more appropriate action to have taken other than the willingness of your staff to carry me down and up in my chair would have been to call ahead and advise your client that the elevator was not working. I could then have been contacted and given the option of declining the invitation.
I write this letter not as a complaint, but as a friendly reminder of the importance of the respect that should be extended to disabled people who might want to visit your venue.
Given the easy access to the main restaurant, the quality of the meal and the kindness of your staff, I would be happy to recommend the restaurant to anyone – be they able bodied or less-abled, as I prefer to refer to myself.
With good wishes to you all for a happy and peaceful holiday season.
Mr Meer called me within a few days of receiving my letter. His response was wonderful and made for a nice change. I have never found myself in this particular circumstance before, but I have more often than I would like had good reason to bring things to various establishment’s attention. The general reaction is one of launching into excuses, very defensive justifications and a whole lot of nothing is said or achieved.
In this instance, the owner took full responsibility for the fact that his management had dropped the ball. He explained that the elevator was in fact shared with the residents in the apartments above the restaurant and they had therefore been aware of the fact that the elevator was not working since much earlier in the morning. Due to a part being needed for the repair that would only get there the next day, the elevator was still not working this much later in the day. He fully agreed that someone should have either informed Friend A. or called us to tell us. We could then have chosen whether we would still attend the party or not. They had our number because that wonderful man I always have in my corner – DDTF had called the restaurant several times to check that there would be elevator access. There really was no excuse for what had happened and the owner did not try do a whole song and dance around it.
I therefore wanted to write about this restaurant as it offers excellent food, great service and had easy access for wheel chairs.
If ever you find yourself in the Tribeca area of New York, I would highly recommend this restaurant.