Disability Inclusive Tips and Strategies
Dining out contributes to cultural, social, and individual factors of a person’s well-being. Food trucks are a great way for people to experience a new, convenient cuisine for much less than a gourmet restaurant. Ensuring that a dining area, whether fast food, dine-in, or in a food truck line is accessible from start to end, and is a stress-free experience for disabled individuals is of utmost importance for food service establishments. According to a study by the Open Doors Organization, individuals with a disability spent $35 billion on eating out in 2003. The same study found that more than 75 percent of individuals with a disability went out to eat at least once a week. Since this study was conducted, the food truck industry has boomed, bringing delicious treats and unique eats closer to consumers. 20.9 million families in the United States report having at least one family member with a disability. This represents a large and growing population that food service establishments must accommodate so that families can enjoy dining out together. Another recent study found that individuals with disability are more likely to be loyal to an inclusive brand or business than individuals who do not have a disability. Despite statistically having a lower income, individuals with a disability spend more per trip and shop more often. Below are ways that food trucks can support an inclusive environment for all to enjoy:
- Menus should be accessible both online and printed. Printed menus should be provided in hand, on an easel, or at a seated eye level if on a food truck.
- If a business has printed menus, they should be placed at the beginning of the line to give individuals time to make informed choices.
- Menus should be large print, high contrast, and non-glare. Use sans serif fonts or writing. Examples are Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman.
- Incorporate a numerical system to allow those who are Deaf or hard of hearing to communicate orders.
- Include calorie content to allow for informative healthy decisions.
- Position the food truck where there is a path of travel around self-serve stations, ordering, pick-up counters, and optional seating areas. Make sure there is at least a three-foot pathway for people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices, or those with service animals.
- Avoid parking in gravel, grass, or in areas with a level change, such as stairs or a curb without a ramp or curb cut.
- Consider roping off areas or painting a path to ensure customers and staff do not encroach the on path of travel.
Tables, Seating, and Counters
- If a food truck offers a dining area, it should include accessible seating for wheelchair and scooter users.
- Seated tables should be no higher than 34 inches above the floor and clear space underneath at least 27 inches high. Avoid using only high-top tables.
- The pick-up window height should accommodate those seated in wheelchairs or other mobility devices. A good test is to pull up a chair to the window and see if items are easy to reach. If not, consider using a lower second counter, transporting ready food to a more accessible area, or having a staff person deliver the food to the customer.
- Tables and counters for self-serving should be no higher than 36 inches above the floor.
- Train employees on how to interact with customers with disabilities and provide adequate accommodations.
- Always ask first before providing assistance and wait for direction from the individual.
- Assistance could include but is not limited to:
- Reading menus to those who are blind or with low vision.
- Exchanging notes or using other methods to communicate information about menu items to those that are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Carrying trays or offering other self-serve items to those with service dogs or mobility aids that may affect carrying capacity.
- Step out of the truck to deliver food instead of reaching from a tall order window.
- Posting signs offering assistance and accommodations to those that need it.
- Ensure the website is accessible to those with disabilities by complying with web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) and ADA Web Accessibility Standards and Requirements.
- Post daily menu online and give options for those in line to access the menu through the website or a social media account.
- Include an accessibility statement offering assistance and accommodations to customers who require.