I am not particularly interested in Oxheart. I am interested in the way the lack of access has been framed in newspapers and the Houston media. In "Top Houston Restaurant Embroiled in Wheelchair Access Controversy: Chef Disputes Houston Mag's Account" Eric Sandler is taken aback the restaurant has failed to comply with the ADA. The lack of wheelchair access was first raised by Houstonia Magazine feature editor Katherine Shilcutt. As near as I can determine Shilcutt wanted to dine with five other people, one person was a "wheelchair bound professor"(it was not me). Upon arrival, the "wheelchair bound" man was told he could not be accommodated. Worse, the restaurant did not care nor did they apologize to the party of five. The restaurant also initially refused to waive the hefty cancellation charge. Shilcutt was furious and followed up on being refused service. I had to laugh at the privilege Shilcutt enjoys and her utter lack of knowledge regarding wheelchair access in restaurants when I read the following:
Shilcutt did get to the heart of the issue when she followed up with the chef/owner who stated:
The owner/chef Justin Vu is ever so sorry. It was a "breakdown in communication". And how is it just because the "problem" arises rarely it is somehow okay? I must confess I found it sadly humorous that restaurant reviewers are so oblivious to wheelchair access. After 35 years of paralysis I have learned a few things. For instance, I do not gracefully accept an apology. I want to know one thing when the ADA is violated: how and exactly when will the so called problem be solved. I refuse to be bribed as well. No free hotel room or meals for this cripple. I do not complain for myself. Instead I want access for the next person that comes along. I have also learned I am screwed when a person starts to tell me all about how communication breakdowns are the the reason why a hotel room is not accessible or why a rental car with hand controls cannot be found. In the restaurant business, I have long observed the existence of the cripple table. This is invariably the worst table in the dining room. Out of sight, near a heating or air conditioning duct or in some way the least desirable place to eat. Space is also an issue: I wish I had a dime for every time a server bumped into my wheelchair. As for a bathroom, aside from big box chain restaurants this is a pipe dream. Even if a bathroom exists getting to it is an adventure--an adventure that involves many sorry's and having a multitude of diners awkwardly move or get out of their seats not once but twice.
The reason restaurants are routinely inaccessible is money. Every inch of a restaurant is designed with money in mind. More tables equal more revenue. The larger the dining room the more revenue it will produce. Hence small kitchens and small bathrooms are the norm. The result is I routinely dehydrate my body if I am going to go out to eat. I choose not to drink beer with my meals. Unlike those that are bipedal when a person with a disability goes out to eat lots of mental gymnastic takes place. Hence this image comes to mind is when I think about eating out: