Agreat restaurateur knows how to accommodate guests and make them comfortable, including people with disabilities. In most developed countries of the world, restaurant staff are trained to respond to the needs of special guests and make arrangements accordingly.
As opposed to that, and unfortunately, very few restaurants in Pakistan provide accommodations to people with disabilities. As a result, they are unable to enjoy their dining experience to the fullest.
In 2011, Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The purpose of the Convention is to promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.
Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. But now, a Karachi-based restaurant Mac & Spud is upping the ante by introducing a braille menu for the blind for the first time in Pakistan, a move that has been welcomed by members of the blind community and other customers alike.
Located at Bukhari Commercial area, D.H.A, Karachi, the cosy restaurant is owned by Sana Zamir and Humayun Rafique. It specialises in a variety of dainty pasta and other items. A braille menu was introduced at the restaurant in collaboration with Knack & Co, a creative agency working to raise awareness about the importance of inclusion in society.
Speaking about the initiative, Salman Elahi, the Secretary-General of the Pakistan Blind Sports Federation as well as the President of Banie Welfare Association, praised Mac & Spud and said that blind people mostly avoid going to restaurants because there are no accommodations available for people with special needs and the experience becomes difficult for them. “Even if I eventually decide to dine out and go to a restaurant, for instance, a friend has to accompany me to provide assistance,” tells Elahi after attending the launch ceremony of the braille menu, where he was invited as a chief guest. “I have to rely on my friend to read out the entire menu card for me so that I can choose the food I want. However, this becomes practically impossible because no one can read everything out for me. If a friend is only reading about three or four items from the menu, then my choices become limited to those three or four items only.”
“There are times when I don’t wish to eat certain food items, but I am unable to do anything about it because there is no way for me to find out what’s available in any given restaurant,” shares Elahi.
Providing suggestions to restaurants all over Pakistan, Elahi said that a braille menu and other accommodations for people with disabilities, such as wheelchair ramps and accessible bathrooms, should be made available so that all customers, irrespective of their physical conditions, could enjoy the experience of dining in at a restaurant.
He further adds that if all restaurants start introducing initiatives to accommodate people with special needs, they will see an increase in their customer base. “Just like everyone else, people with disabilities also want to enjoy their meals. Once they feel welcomed by a restaurant, I am sure they will visit more often,” he expresses.
Conveying his gratitude to restaurant owners Sana and Humayun, Elahi enthuses, “They have taken this dynamic step to promote inclusion of the blind community in Karachi. Thank you for making us proud.”
Talking to the scribe, Sana reveals that when she heard about Knack & Co. raising awareness about inclusion and diversity, she approached the company herself and decided to launch the braille menu. “Disability is non-existent in the presence of structural and literary accessibility. Such initiatives by businesses, educational institutions, public places, and government organisations can make big difference in the lives of people with diverse abilities and different needs and lay the foundation for a truly inclusive society,” opines Sana.
On the other hand, Humayun shares that he and his co-owner decided to take the initiative because for them, Mac & Spud is just not a restaurant but a community space to bring positive change and to uplift the Pakistani nation.
“We are glad to be the initiators of the Braille menu in Pakistan and we expect others to join us in this cause. Knack & Co is providing Braille printing services which we think is a basic need for the blind community,” concludes Humayun.