top of page

12 Ways to Make Your Restaurant Disability-Friendly

Making your restaurant comfortable for all of your guests should be top priority for restaurants. When you’re designing your restaurant, don’t forget about what you can do to make it more accessible to everyone—that includes customers with disabilities.

Disabled guests and the guests who dine with them not only appreciate the attention to detail you’ve put in to ensure an enjoyable and safe dining experience, but the law

requires it.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, is a set of laws that detail the minimum rules for accessibility in restaurants, but you can take it a step further to show your guests that you have taken the time to put some thought into additional ways to make everyone feel welcome.

While more and more restaurants are beginning to bear in mind access issues for those with physical and cognitive disabilities, there's still more work to be done.

Creating a disability-friendly environment in restaurants is crucial to ensure equal access and inclusivity for all customers. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the ways restaurants can improve the dining experience for those with disabilities of all types.

12 Ways Restaurants Can Be More Disability-Friendly

1. Accessibility: Ensure that your restaurant is accessible to people with disabilities. Install ramps or lifts to provide wheelchair access to the entrance and throughout the premises. Make sure the doorways are wide enough for wheelchairs to pass through easily. Allocate parking spaces for people with disabilities.

2. Build Accessible Bathrooms: To accommodate disabled people and the elderly, separate bathrooms help provide additional privacy and space. Designate accessible restrooms that are spacious enough to accommodate wheelchairs. Install grab bars and ensure there is sufficient maneuvering space inside the restroom. Make sure the sinks, toilets, and hand dryers are at an appropriate height for individuals with disabilities.

3. Clear Pathways: Ensure that there are clear pathways between tables and other areas of the restaurant. Avoid clutter or obstacles that may obstruct the movement of individuals with mobility aids.

3. Seating Arrangements: Offer seating options that cater to different needs. Have tables at varying heights to accommodate wheelchair users and adjustable seating for people with different sizes, heights, or mobility requirements.

4. Menu Accessibility: Provide menus in alternative formats, such as large print or braille, for customers with visual impairments. Offer digital menus that can be accessed through smartphones or tablets for those who may require assistive technology. Technological advancements have given folks with disabilities many new tools for mobility and communication, but you can't be expected to accommodate every one. Just educate your staff to do the best they can. And if you do institute new programs or install new technology for the disabled, be sure to educate all of your employees so they all learn together.

5. Post Signs In Braille: Braille is a system of raised dots used by persons with visual impairments. Post braille signs anywhere you think it might be helpful. For example, on bathroom signs, at the pickup window, and at disabled-accessible tables.

6. Communication Aids: Offer hearing assistance devices for customers with hearing impairments if possible. These devices can help amplify sound or provide closed-captioning for announcements or conversations.

7. Lighting and Acoustics: Be sure that your restaurant has adequate lighting that is evenly distributed and does not create glare or shadows. Maintain a comfortable noise level by incorporating acoustic panels or sound-absorbing materials to reduce background noise.

8. Train your staff in disability awareness and communication skills. Encourage your staff to treat all customers equally, with respect and dignity, regardless of their size, age, race, sex, or possible disability. Provide resources and training materials to educate employees about various disabilities and how to best assist customers. Train your staff to be knowledgeable about disabilities, including common accommodations, etiquette, and how to provide assistance when needed. Encourage open communication between staff and customers to address any specific requirements or concerns. Your staff shouldn't be expected to know how to best accommodate a cognitively or visually impaired person or what tables are easiest to customers in wheelchairs, but as an owner or manager, you should do the best you can to learn so you can be there to answer questions and address issues as they arise.

There are a wide variety of disabilities and it's important that your staff be comfortable enough to handle some issues and comfortable and aware enough to ask for help when needed.

When a disabled person visits your restaurant, teach your staff to greet them like they would with any customer. Do your best not make them feel like they stand out. Instead, maintain awareness in case they require assistance. Some employees might be inclined to ignore disabled guests if they aren’t sure what to do or how to act. This is why staff training is critical.

9. Online Accessibility: Ensure that your restaurant's website and online ordering platforms are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Follow web accessibility guidelines to make your online presence inclusive and user-friendly.

10. Feedback Mechanisms: Establish a feedback mechanism for customers to provide input on their experiences regarding accessibility and disability friendliness. Actively listen to their suggestions and make improvements based on their feedback.

11. Be Patient: Disabled people may need more time to settle in before they are ready to start ordering. It’s important not to rush them so they don't perceive your actions as rude or that you’re trying to get them out quickly. In particular, folks with mobility issues might expend a lot of physical energy moving from their car to their table in the restaurant. Likewise, when the guest has finished their meal, be considerate of the time it will take them to get going. Patience is key, as is well-timed assistance.

12. Offer To Help: Your staff should be prepared to offer any additional assistance required by disabled patrons, such as rearranging seating, providing additional tables or different chairs, holding doors open, etc. Making sure that all your guests feel welcome and well taken care of is everything

Meeting ADA Requirements

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in everyday activities. It guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else.

For restaurants, it is important to keep ADA regulations in mind, not only during the building process, but during the hiring process as well. The following guidelines will help you navigate the ADA requirements.

What is ADA Compliant?

For your establishment to be ADA compliant, it must abide by the rules and regulations established in the ADA of 1990.

Below is a brief overview of the ADA Requirements for Accessibility and Employee Accomodations.

ADA Requirements for Customer Accessibility

One of the biggest challenges that business owners face when dealing with ADA regulations is the removal of barriers. Barriers can take many forms, and not all of them are obvious to a person without a disability.


  • Patrons with disabilities must be provided with parking spaces that are close to your business and offer enough space to exit their vehicles.

  • For every 25 spots in the parking lot, there must be one handicap spot.

  • One in every eight accessible spots must be 8 feet in width to accomodate vans.

  • Parking spots must be on a level surface, with no more than a 2% slope.

Building Entrance

  • Your building entrance must be flush with the ground, or must have a 36" wide ramp that is at least 60" long with a 2% slight slope so that customers in wheelchairs may enter.

  • If the ramp is more than 6 feet long, it must also feature 34” to 38” tall handrails.

  • If there is no way to make your main entrance accessible and you have other entrances that could,, you must make them accessible to the public, clear the path, and clearly note where that entrance is located.

  • Passenger loading zones need to be approximately 60" wide and 20’ long, and must parallel to the building.

Important Note: If your business is not accessible, (for example, if it operates on the rooftop of a building and there is no elevator,) you can still be compliant by offering delivery to customers’ homes or cars.


  • Entrances must be at least 36" wide to accommodate customers in wheelchairs.

  • Handles cannot require squeezing or turning.

  • Loop and lever style handles are compliant, knob and panel styles are not.

  • Doors should require less than 5 pounds of pressure to push or pull.


  • Aisles between tables must be at least 36" wide.

  • Merchandise, condiments, flatware, and other items at self-service stations cannot be out of reach of customers in wheelchairs unless there are employees that are readily available to help.

  • A space must be designated for wheelchair-bound customers to be able to turn in the facility. It must be in the shape of a T or a 5-foot circle.

  • Any obstacles to paths must be detectable by being no more than 27" off the floor and 4" from the wall.

Seats, Tables, and Counters

  • There must be a 36" aisle between any fixed seats.

  • Spaces for wheelchairs at tables must be available by either leaving them open or adding movable chairs at ADA compliant tables.

  • 5% of the tables (or one if you have 20 tables or less) must be ADA Compliant.

  • A floor area of 30" by 48" should be cleared to accommodate wheelchair seating at a table or counter.

  • Tabletops and counters should be between 28” to 34” in height to be accessible in a wheelchair.

  • Customers should have ample knee room under a table or counter that measures a minimum of 30" wide, 27" high, and 19" deep.


  • There must be enough space for a wheelchair to maneuver around the toilet and the sink.

  • There must be a handicapped stall with safety bars.

  • There must be enough space under the sink for wheelchair user to reach the soap and faucet.

  • The handles of the soap dispenser and faucets must be easy to use.

  • Braille restroom signs should be available.

ADA Compliance for Employees

The ADA was written to protect both business patrons and employees. As a business owner or hiring manager, it is extremely important to understand both aspects of the ADA. Here are some steps you can take to ensure ADA compliance with your employees.

  • Equal Opportunity While Hiring

Some disabilities may be immediately visible when a potential employee comes in for an interview, but others do not present themselves right away. According to the ADA and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it is illegal to ask interviewees about any disabilities they may or may not have before presenting them with a conditional job offer.

Contingent upon that offer, the employer or hiring manager may ask about potential disabilities to see if a reasonable accommodation must be made, but only if they ask the same questions of all employees with conditional job offers. They cannot revoke that job offer if the employee discloses that they do have a disability unless making accommodations would cause undue hardship to the business. It is important to clearly outline the hiring expectations and discrimination policies in your employee handbook.

  • Accommodating for Employees with Disabilities

If you become aware that a potential hire is disabled, you must work with him or her to find a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodations allow the employer to alter the way the job is performed so the disabled employee can do the job. This could potentially mean transferring the employee to a different position if that is possible.

The employer does not have to make an accommodation if it proves to be an undue hardship, which means a significant financial expense, disruption, or change to the business. For example, if you own a cafe and a potential server has a chronic knee injury that prevents them from walking around for long periods of time, you can accommodate them by allowing them to take breaks whenever needed, even if that means hiring extra help.

You can also make reasonable accommodations by transferring an employee to a different department. If a potential cashier has a learning disability that prevents him from counting money correctly, you could consider hiring them as a host or hostess instead.

Tax Breaks for ADA Compliance

Although compliance sometimes costs money, the IRS Code states that all businesses are eligible for tax deductions when installing ADA compliant equipment or removing barriers. The maximum deduction is $15,000 per year, and small businesses are also eligible for a tax credit that can cover up to 50% (up to $10,250 per year) of compliance related expenditures.

Take Away

Making your restaurant accessible and disability-friendly is an important goal. It can be achieved by making some small but important changes to your restaurant.

When dealing with customers or employees with disabilities, patience and awareness are key. If you train your staff to take service slowly, provide assistance when required, and let your guests with disabilities dictate the pace, you’ll be taking the first steps toward creating a disability-friendly environment that makes everyone feel at home.

Related Posts

By Eileen Strauss


Thanks for subscribing!

Get a Taste of Our Secret Sauce
Stay up to date with the latest restaurant delivery news

Bringing in






Driving Repeat Business

Making Delivery Work

*Sauce recovers over 98% of restaurant delivery refund claims.

Commission Free Direct Delivery

Access To Unlimited Supply Of Delivery Drivers

Live Mobile Order Tracking

Live Delivery Support

Refund Reconciliation Management

Virtual Telephone Answering

Feedback Collection & Management


bottom of page