Fast, Casual, Helpful

I like the new fast casual food trend – you can get something that’s not a burger or deep-fried, maybe soup or salad, but you don’t pay more than $5-6 for lunch.

Some have popped up in my area: Noodles & Company, Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, Panera and Bear Rock Café.

There’s something nice they have in common: they have trained their employees to assist customers with disabilities. If I order water, someone gets it for me and brings it to my table. If I’m using a wheelchair, usually someone will bring my entire order rather than expecting me to hang around the counter and then carry a platter with soup and a salad.

This doesn’t extend to every chain: even though I go there a couple of times a week, the employees at my local Starbucks seem incapable of comprehending that it’s not real safe for me to carry a paper cup full of boiling liquid, and I usually have to ask several times, fending off blank looks and more cup sleeves.



  1. Becky

    That’s an interesting observation. As a full-time wheelchair-user since the age of 4, I’ve never had to deal with the blank looks you describe. It’s unfortunate that, as a society, our image of “the disabled” always includes a chair. I wonder if you ever feel like just going ahead and using your chair, even if you don’t physically need to, just to avoid that problem of people not “getting” that you truly have a disability?

  2. Becky

    Well, let me clarify. I do get confused looks, when people don’t quite understand what it is I’m asking of them. But I never get blank (as in, “what? you need help?”) looks, as it’s just obvious from looking at me that I can’t do much of anything physically for myself. I guess the challenge that I face is people making assumptions about what I need that go too far; I’m frequently offered children’s menus or simply ignored by waiterstaff at restaurants who assume that because my physical disability is so severe, I must be on that level mentally, as well.

  3. bb

    May I share a Starbucks blank mentality I encountered?
    I went to use their ladies room and did not notice as the door was open that someone removed the door knob! Oh I saw it once the door shut.

    After hollering through the hole my husband heard me and extracted me with his pen knife. He was gracious enough not to laugh, my friend with us was another story.

    I went up to the personnel to tell them of the problem and talk about blank looks! They did nothing to alert the public, they did nothing to block the bathroom from use until the guy came back with the door knob. They didn’t even apologize!

    I wrote the company and ended up with a book of free coupons and apologies all over the place.

    I know the company did something because my next trip in there the light was burned out and immediately they took care of it.

  4. Katja

    Hmmm – it’s an interesting phenomenon that when I can walk well enough to use crutches, things do get much more difficult – it’s harder to carry things, harder to open doors, and of course I’m using more energy just to ambulate.

    When is the wheelchair physically necessary? I guess it’s when I want to do something, whether it’s go to a concert or go down the hall to get my printout, and I wouldn’t do it without the wheelchair, even though I physically could.

    (Edited to add:)
    How come you don’t get blank looks? I wouldn’t think length of wheelchair use would have anything to do with other people’s inability to hear or figure things out. Maybe you’ve got them all trained.

  5. Katja

    Oooh, good, now it’s a Starbuck’s thread!

    Actually, I’ve found them to be quite good customer-service-wise; they’ve comped me coffee when they made a mistake; when they first got those wheelchair tables they fell all over themselves trying to make sure I got to use them (in fact, those wheelchair tables are a magnet for all the T-Mobile laptop people because they’re just like desks!).

    It’s just the carrying thing that seems to escape them – partly I think it’s because it’s really loud behind the counter, and if you ask a non-standard question (Could you please carry my coffee to a table for me?) they tend not to understand it on first hearing and try to interpret it as something they know (like, can I have a coffee sleeve?).


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