Nova Scotia

Stellarton restaurant gives partly blind diners greater independence

A Stellarton, N.S., restaurant is using braille and audio to make its menu more accessible to blind and partly blind diners.

Menu is available in braille, audio format

Jody Holley wanted to give partly blind restaurant patrons like her son, Luke Reddick, a feeling of equality. (Karen Holley)

Partly blind diners at one Nova Scotia restaurant no longer need to ask sighted people for help to order from the menu.

The menu at Jungle Jim's Eatery in Stellarton now includes braille and a QR code that takes diners to an audio version of the menu on YouTube. 

It's all thanks to Jody Holley, a server at the restaurant and the mother of 13-year-old Luke Reddick, who is partly blind. 

Holley said her son is not the only partly blind person who goes to the restaurant.

"It was very important for me to accommodate all of the customers that came in the restaurant to give them just that feeling of independence when they came in to eat with us," Holley said. 

'The feeling of equality'

She said it could be "discouraging" for blind or partly blind patrons not to have an accessible menu. Holley said as a mother she wanted them to have "the feeling of equality that they deserve."

Holley wanted to ensure her son had the same restaurant experience as everyone else. (Karen Holley)

Reddick said when he visited the restaurant before he would have to ask his mother for assistance. That affected his independence, he said. 

Holley said she expects her son will be going off to university in a few years and he wasn't comfortable with the idea of having to ask the servers to read the menu to him.

People go out to eat because it is an enjoyable experience, Holley said, and braille menus and QR codes help to make it enjoyable for everyone. 

Holley worked with Nicole MacDonald, one of Reddick's teachers, to create the new menus. 

Need for more than braille

MacDonald said she regarded it as a "really neat project" to do in her spare time as she was already teaching students how to advocate for themselves and their communities. 

She said she has a nephew with a learning disability who can't read print and an aging father who is always forgetting his glasses when he goes to restaurants, so she understood there was a need for more than braille.

"It just became clear that it would be even more accessible if there were QR codes and there was an auditory component for the menu," MacDonald said.

MacDonald said other restaurants that want to make their menus more accessible should consider having a basic online menu in plain text so that people could access them with the screen reader on their phone.

Reddick said his mother used to read him a few menu items she thought he would like, but now he has access to the complete menu.

"I like to eat different food every time now," Reddick said. "I'm probably going to try some of the new sandwiches and stuff."

With files from Information Morning Nova Scotia

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