Clint Eastwood and his Mission Ranch restaurant and hotel were sued for violating ADA requirements. The plaintiff claimed the facility was not fully accessible to her wheelchair during a visit there in 1996. She cited a distant accessible restroom, no ramp to the main office, and wheelchair accessible room rates that were much higher than other rooms.
While Eastwood acknowledged that there were problems, he said that he was not given a chance to improve wheelchair access before he was sued. The jury ultimately found in favor of Eastwood, but this case brings to light some of the issues we must be aware of to meet ADA compliance, and provide a fantastic guest experience to all of our guests.
What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed by President George Bush on July 26, 1990, is a massive piece of legislation. Two areas apply specifically to the restaurant industry: The first deals with employment, and the second deals with access to a restaurant's premises and services. These two areas are administered by different agencies and set different standards for compliance. We've summarized them, and provided links to additional resources, on ADA Summary page.
What should I know about the employment issue?
There are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself: write detailed job descriptions that outline the specific tasks required to perform each job; make sure that all people who hire new employees are trained in the proper interview and scheduling regulations and etiquette related to the ADA; and know what "reasonable accommodations" may be required to make your workplace ADA compliant.
What should I know about the access issue?
Requirements for disability access are often enforced on a case by case basis, but most require that existing buildings begin removing all architectural and communication barriers if their removal is "readily achievable" (easily accomplished and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense). Alterations in policy or procedure may be required if removing a barrier is not readily achievable. For example, if full access to the bar is not available, a restaurant must serve the bar menu in another, accessible area of the restaurant.
Guest service for special guests
There are certain areas of etiquette that should be followed by all employees in the service business, and simple training will familiarize your staff with ways to give everyone great service. We've put together a list of etiquette pointers that you can download and share with your team.