Although nearly 400,000 people in Australia live with some form of vision impairment, there are relatively few food venues that offer braille or large-print menu options.
This has been a fact of life for artist and photographer Brenden Borellini who is blind and deaf.
Despite having a love of food and eating out, Mr Borellini has always had to depend on someone else reading him a restaurant menu.
Earlier this year Mr Borellini successfully pushed for a council-owned cafe in Mackay to introduce a braille menu.
The cafe became the first eatery in the area to have a menu available that accommodated the needs of people who are blind or have a vision impairment.
“I think it’s a great idea for a local business to embrace a braille menu and it’s a step forward for Mackay,” Mr Borellini said.
“It means a lot — not just for me — but for people with vision impairment in general.
“It allows me to be independent when I’m ordering and I don’t have to rely on anybody.
“They [food venues] should continue to improve accessibility for people with a disability.”
‘The least we could do’
Former Olympic swimmer Eamon Sullivan, who now part-owns several restaurants in Western Australia, said providing braille menus was “the least we could do”.
“I had the privilege of competing [alongside] Paralympians at the Commonwealth Games and seeing the challenges they overcome day-to-day.
“Having a braille menu shouldn’t be a gesture, it should be a standard,” he said.
“It will go a long way for people who are blind or vision impaired to be able to go to a cafe and not have to ask people to read out a simple thing.
“It would just go a long way to make people feel included.”
Sullivan said providing one breakfast, lunch and dessert menu in braille would cost around $200 per venue.
“It just makes sense,” he said.
“All the vegan, gluten-free dietary requirements, coffee orders … everything is catered around people’s preferences rather than the cards they’ve been dealt.
“We always push ourselves to cater for everyone, and we realised we weren’t.
“I hope more people jump on board and do similar things and think about hospitality being hospitable for everyone.”
Few braille options
Restaurant chain Hog’s Breath Cafe introduced braille menus company-wide in 2000, which National Operations Manager Paul Piert said was part of allowing people of all abilities to enjoy the experience of eating at a Hog’s Breath Cafe.
“We are passionate about making sure blind and partially blind people, along with disabled people, that their experience in the restaurant is no less than anybody else’s,” Mr Piert said.
“It’s not only been received well but it’s actually the right thing to do.
“Our restaurants are fun and have an amazing atmosphere. We want to make sure that everybody can enjoy that.”
Mr Piert said there was a cost to producing two versions of the same menu but it was worthwhile.
“We absorb that [cost] as part of our business because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
“I think in hospitality now you’ve got to make sure that you include everybody.”
Braille menus vital for independence
Karen Knight from Vision Australia said there needed to be more awareness of how vital braille is for people who are vision impaired.
“Braille really is the only way that someone who cannot read print can actually be literate … and it really is giving people the same access as their sighted friends and colleagues,” she said.
“It really is surprising, the lack of awareness.
“Initiatives like this — about having braille in the general community — are a great step forward.”
Ms Knight is blind and values not needing to rely on anyone to help her order her meal.
“Some people aren’t that confident about reading out loud and so they might only tell you the headings or they might say something like, ‘oh just the usual things’.
“I really value my independence, so to have a braille menu — which I’ve actually only experienced a handful of times in my life — I love it.
“I keep going back and back to those places that do have braille menus because it’s the independence factor I value so much.”
Topics: disabilities, food-and-beverage, food-and-cooking, discrimination, human-interest, mackay-4740, wa, south-fremantle-6162, north-fremantle-6159, fremantle-6160, east-fremantle-6158, perth-6000, subiaco-6008