Dining with a disability

Kate Giles
I have vision loss. It can make dining at a restaurant difficult. I need lighting that is not too dark or light. There is also a lot to consider when ordering food. I need a menu with large print. I also need to order something easy to eat. Cutting up food can be difficult. It can be embarrassing when a big piece of food is on my fork. I also cannot see when people are bringing things to the table. My friend usually warns me. Once I knocked a waiter and my plate of food went everywhere.
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Kate Giles on 16/08/2011
Two forks lying on a dining table with wine glasses in the background
Two forks lying on a dining table with wine glasses in the background

I fumble around to rearrange tableware into the safest possible position

Is this OK for you? says my friend Gerda. She pulls out a seat at the restaurant table.

It's a bit dark, I reply. Is there anywhere else with better lighting?

Oh! I am so sorry! says Gerda. I forgot. You know what my brain is like these days! How about over there near the window?

Lighting is always a problem with for people with vision loss. Too little light and it's hard to see anything at all. Too much can also have the same effect.

Fumble around

Once seated, I quickly fumble around the table to see where everything is. I am careful in case I knock over a wine glass. I find the menu after rearranging the tableware into the safest possible position. It's in fairly large print. With the help of my magnifier I manage to read it.

Don't choose anything with seafood, laughs Gerda. Remember last time?

How could I forget? It was a very yummy seafood risotto. It had all the trimmings, including the shells. I'm not sure how many shells I almost choked on.

A lot to consider

There is a lot to consider when ordering food. My vision doesn't allow me to see all the food on the plate at one time. I have to examine what is where at almost point-blank range. Then I must remember where everything is.

Cutting food is also quite difficult. When eating, I cannot see the parts I have cut and the parts I haven't. While lifting the food to my mouth, sometimes I don't realise there is a piece of uncut meat dangling from the fork. This can be rather embarrassing. It's especially embarrassing if it falls off down the front of my nice clean top. Pastas are usually the easiest to eat. Pasta also gives me an excuse to tuck a serviette under my chin and lean right over the plate. So today, pasta it is.

Little strategies

The table is set with a crisp clean white tablecloth. I decide to order a white wine. A white wine spill could go unnoticed. A red spill would be disastrous.

Incoming drink on your left, says Gerda.

Gerda has learnt some not-so-obvious little strategies to help me. My disability doesn't allow me the luxury to see what is happening around me. This also means I often don't see the waiter coming to the table. I remember one time I moved my arm just as the waiter put my food down. Unfortunately, my dinner ended up all over the place. It was so embarrassing. I also had to wait for another meal while everyone else ate. Gerda and I have learnt that quaint little dining strategies save embarrassment and allow me to eat with everyone else.

Chosen well

We also avoid buffets and smorgasbords. It is far too stressful trying to see what is on offer. It is also hard trying to balance a plate of food and dodge people I cannot see. Buffet dining can quickly turn a lovely day out into a nightmare.

Today we have chosen well. There is enough light, good food and excellent table service. Of course, I also enjoy the great company.

How about sweets? says Gerda. Why not? I reply. And another glass of wine won't go astray, either.

Readers comments (2)

hi Kate
whenever i eat out, if my meal needs cutting up, i ask the waiter to get the chef to do it for me. this usually works quite well, especially for something like steak. i can use a fork, but not a knife. people are generally willing to help, I just had to make myself ask.

Reading kates blurb on restaurant difficulties. My vision in good if good lighting is available ... But if presented with menu that has complimentary colours rather than contrast i have trouble reading it. and avoid it feeling rather stupid. I found comfort in readind kates blurb, i felt like i was not alone with my priblem.

Thank you kate

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