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An Insider’s Guide to Restaurant Accessibility

As a resident of Washington, D.C. for nearly ten years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time frequenting the city’s burgeoning restaurant scene. Much like my fellow Accessibility Consultants at SWA, even when we’re off the clock, we notice structural violations of federal accessibility laws on a daily basis. I would love to say that DC’s restaurant industry is an exception, but unfortunately there are still many challenges facing diners with disabilities in Washington.

Accessibility regulations that apply to restaurants are outlined under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Achieving compliance with the ADA can be a substantial task, but not without significant benefit. Recent statistics show that people with disabilities spend over $35 billion in restaurants a year. This is no small change for an industry with ever-increasing competition. Compliance also mitigates risk of litigation, which is particularly important as the U.S. Department of Justice and advocacy groups continue systemic investigations across the country.

Following are a few general rules of thumb to remember when providing equal access to guests with disabilities:

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