Call to make hospitality venues more accessible for visually impaired

Edinburgh's Swanston Brasserie has become one of the first restaurants to make accessibility for people with sight loss a top priority.

A charity that supports people living with sight loss has launched a guide to encourage hospitality venues to make dining out more accessible for people with vision impairments.

Sight Scotland has produced a free accessibility guide which gives simple advice and tips on what venues can do to improve the visitor experience for the vision impaired.

The charity has joined forces with Swanston Brasserie in Edinburgh 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 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.

Kevin Turner lost his sight completely two years ago

Kevin Turner has had sight problems since birth but two years ago he lost his sight completely. He said that living with a vision impairment means that dining out can sometimes feel overwhelming.

“Some restaurants can be quite noisy and disorientating sometimes. If you want to go to the bathroom and you aren’t with a sighted friend or a partner you can really struggle because you have to try to get someone’s attention,” he said.

Sam Lockhart, marketing manager at Swanston Brasserie said: “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 just a great help to us; she came in for a chat and was here for three and a half hours giving 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 added: “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 accessibility guide and together we can all open our doors to the vision impaired.”

Craig Spalding, chief executive of Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans, added: “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.”

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