Charity launches new Customer Service Guide for bars and restaurants during National Braille Week.
Sight Scotland has joined forces with Swanston Brasserie in Edinburgh to urge more restaurants and venues to ‘open their doors’ to the vision impaired.
The charity has produced a free Customer Service Guide aimed at the hospitality industry, which gives simple advice and tips on what venues can do to improve the visitor experience for the vision impaired.
The new Sight Scotland campaign has been inspired by Swanston Brasserie, situated about five miles south of Edinburgh City Centre, which has become one of the first restaurants in Scotland to place accessibility for the visionary impaired at the top of its priority list.
The pioneering Edinburgh eatery has made changes to its layout, ensuring that a person with vision impairment is made to feel as welcome and comfortable as possible from the moment they step in the front door to the moment they leave. Swanston has assessed all its signage, has introduced braille and large print menus, has an audio menu for its website and has produced its own printed VI training guide for all its staff to follow.
The restaurant has also created an accessibility tab on its website, which shows users exactly what to expect when they arrive, with a step by step walk through of the venue, ensuring there are no unexpected surprises on arrival.
Swanston enlisted the help of Marie O’Donnell, who works for Sight Scotland as a rehabilitation and mobility officer, who has been blind since birth, to give advice on what accessibility changes were needed, and to assist with staff training so they know exactly how to welcome and serve a person with vision impairment.
Sam Lockhart, who is Marketing Manager at Swanston Brasserie, comments: “I am very passionate about this due to my Great Grandfather who was blind, he lived until he was 102 and there was literally nothing he could not do. We want to improve the visitor experience for everyone, and make people with vision impairment, or any disability, feel as welcome and comfortable as possible.
“As a society we need to work on education, and improve our understanding that everyone is different, but these differences should not prevent anyone from doing things they enjoy. I very much believe that we should try and give 100% to everyone.
“Unfortunately, most people with a VI have anxiety; they don’t like new places and they don’t like surprises. This is why it is so important for them to know a venue is accessible and that the staff are friendly and aware of what assistance they may require. People with a VI spend their life planning, so if they find a restaurant or venue which suits their needs, and where they are well looked after, it stands to reason that they will return.
“Marie O’Donnell from Sight Scotland was a great help to us and gave us lots of advice on what people with a VI require and what changes we needed to make. There was so much she explained to us that you just wouldn’t think about, it really was quite an eye opener! Marie also helped train our staff and helped us with our new VI training guide. As a business we are determined to do everything we can to be as inclusive as possible and we want to help show everyone that just because you have vision impairment that life does not need to stop.”
Sam adds: “I want to stress that this has not been a financial burden and most of the changes we have made are small and easy to implement. I would fully recommend that other restaurants and venues take advantage of the Sight Scotland Customer Service guide and together we can all open our doors to the vision impaired.”
Gillian McDonald, Director of Operations at Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans, adds: “We are really hoping more restaurants and venues follow Swanston’s Brasserie’s lead and open their doors to the vision impaired. Small, easy changes can make such a huge difference to someone with a VI, and this is why we are launching our restaurant accessibility campaign.”
National Braille Week was launched by Sight Scotland to raise awareness of Braille. It takes place during the second week of October every year to shine a spotlight on the tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired.
For more information or to request a copy of Sight Scotland’s Customer Service Guide on accessibility for restaurants and venues please visit: sightscotland.org.uk