Guide to a wheelchair accessible restaurant

Melbourne’s restaurants are known for their diverse food scene. But wheelchair users face limited options. In a survey we conducted, we found that 87% of mobility aid users find it difficult to locate wheelchair accessible restaurants. From steps at entrance to table access, such issues are commonly faced by wheelchair users but overlooked by restaurants.

Steps act as obstacles for wheelchair users, including a small bump, no matter the height! Ramps should be stable, with a gentle gradient that allows smooth access. Wobbly, too steep, and no-rail ramps are inaccessible. Doorways should be 80cm wide minimum, approximately as wide as two doors, to allow wheelchair users to pass through with ease.

A variety of table arrangements are preferable to accommodate different wheelchair heights. Generally, tables and chairs should be movable, and need to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. The Yarra City Council states that tables should be 700 - 850mm above the platform or ground height, which means adequate clearance underneath but not unreachable height.

Wheelchair users should be able to enter and exit restaurants without encountering obstacles. This can be improved by ensuring tables are spaced apart and removing display items that may get in the way.

Toilets should have a doorway 80cm wide minimum, grab rails, and features like toilet paper, soap, and a hand dryer within reach when seated. There should also be no steps, regularly cleaned, and not used as storage space! In the case of no accessible toilet on-site, staff should know where the nearest accessible toilet is. Read here for more information about accessible toilets!

This should be available within a 200 meters distance from the restaurant. These parking spaces are larger in size, near the entrance of the building, and painted with an accessibility symbol. This site by the City of Melbourne Council shows the accessible parking options available and how to apply for parking permits.

Although it may be full of well-known restaurants, Melbourne laneways are known for their rocky, narrow path. If outdoor space is available, an even, smooth path is preferred for it to be accessible to wheelchair users.

Staff should be knowledgeable about whether or not the restaurant features are accessible. While true hospitality requires compassion and awareness, it is unfortunately common for wheelchair users to be given false information, despite making the effort to call the restaurant beforehand. Disability awareness can be given in staff induction.

If you wish to see videos about the information above, check out the Reels series in our Instagram where you can see what makes restaurants inaccessible. We show both inaccessible and accessible features, accompanied with concise explanations!

Currently, restaurant accessibility in Melbourne requires more attention and effort. The content we post amplifies our aim of advocating the importance of wheelchair accessibility, particularly to non-wheelchair users, by showing what restaurants should ideally look like. Subsequently, this allows a more enjoyable dining experience for everyone!

Our mission is for EnAccess Maps to become the go-to wheelchair access guide. We want to provide a platform for both the local community and the spirited traveller - looking to plan and find wheelchair accessible restaurants and cafes. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and join our mailing list to join us on our journey!