“Cheers! to Access” A merit badge system for restaurant patios in HRM

This video collaboration between PEACH and Planifax interviewed three accessibility experts and advocates in Halifax Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia, about basic elements and considerations to enhance accessibility of food establishments for all.

PEACH Research Unit teamed up with The Coast Halifax to launch the Cheers! to Access merit badge system which recognizes restaurants for their accessibility. This system was piloted starting in July 2021. With this project, we want to widely share information about different accessibility features at restaurants (also cafes, bars/pubs, ice cream parlors), and their patios all around Halifax Regional Municipality for everyone looking for places to enjoy this summer. The merit badges below were developed in consultation with Michelle Mahoney, a Haligonian accessibility professional and advocate.

Cheers! to Access‘ badges are issued to restaurants and other food establishments when they meet key criteria for access (described below). Window stickers of badges will be distributed for restaurants to display on-site. Through this system, we wish to celebrate restaurants who have made efforts towards accessibility and promote accessibility adaptations in other restaurants. Restaurants and food establishments are invited to email us at peach@dal.ca if you would like to know more about the Cheers! to Access badge system!

Five people sit around a patio table and raise a glass to cheers.

Do you have a favourite restaurant? Tell us where we should go next!

Disclaimer: The Cheers! to Access badge system does not confirm or guarantee compliance with building code or accessibility standards. The first six badges piloted here do not cover the needs of all persons. Neither PEACH Research Unit nor The Coast claim responsibility for the maintenance or upkeep of the facilities that receive a badge. Restaurants are asked to follow an honor system and remove the merit badge from display if features are altered or changed to no longer meet the criteria of the merit distributed.

A Barrier-Free Entrance

This badge is achieved if the entrance into to a restaurant is ramped or level, and wide enough for a person using a wheelchair to roll through easily. (No less than 85 cm wide at any point, including hardware and protruding objects.)

A Barrier-Free Patio Entry

This badge is achieved if the entrance to the patio is ramped or level, and wide enough for a person using a wheelchair to roll through easily. (Greater than 90 cm wide.)

Space to Manoeuvre

For this badge, paths of travel in a restaurant and patio are free of obstacles and at least 90 cm wide so that a person using a mobility device or with a service animal can manoeuvre to the table, washroom, and pay counter (if applicable).

Wheelchair-Friendly Tables

To earn this badge, restaurant seating must offer at least one table that has a height clearance for a person using a wheelchair to roll up to it, fit knees under it, and have the tabletop at a reasonable height. E.g., Barstool seating will not qualify. (Optimum clearance height is 86 cm.)

Washroom Accessibility

For this badge, a washroom must be accessible by a route free of obstructions. There is a washroom stall large enough to allow transfer from a wheelchair (> 90cm next to the toilet) and it will have grab bars installed. Finally, handwashing facilities (sink, soap, hand towels) will be at a reachable height for persons in a seated position (110 cm high or less).

Accessibility Plus +

This is a custom badge. It can apply to any other feature or service provided by a restaurant that improves accessibility. For example, wait staff who know ASL; tactile buttons on pay machines; or, menu options are available with Braille or audible dictation. This badge will only be distributed to establishments who have earned at least one of the other five badges.

We would like to thank The Coast for collaborating with us to coordinate and spread the word on this project!