I have always had a love hate relationship with going out to eat, even from a young age. As someone who is totally blind today the experience can be good and bad especially because of being a guide dog handler.
Since I was born legally blind and have always had really bad vision, and no not like how you have bad vision when you take your glasses off. I had always had some anxiety when eating out. If we were going somewhere like a fast food place that had the menu behind the counter, there was no way that I could ever read those. They are horribly back lit, the print had horrible contrast it was just not happening. So I would order the same thing at the restaurant every single time no matter if I wanted something else or not. Or my favourite, you order whatever the person in front of you does. Because there was a time when I didn’t have the confidence to ask and that was because when I would ask sometimes what they had for say chicken. The answer I would get without fail cane or not would be “the menu is right there”. And at that time I was too proud or nervous to say well I actually can’t read that because I can’t see it.
Going to a sit down restaurant one would think that would be a better option but nope, the restaurants always have horrible lighting and the menu print is seriously microscopic, and the menus usually are covered in plastic that creates glare from the crappy lights. So again I would try to read the menu with it so close that I got all the germs from the menu right up my nose and even then I could not see it. But you know what every restaurant usually has? Chicken Cesar Salad. So you guessed it, that was my fail safe. I never wanted my friends to read the menu for me because that meant that I had to admit that I was blind. Looking back now I can see that the only person who suffered in any of this was me.
Now as I have no vision left and much more confidence than I ever had. I don’t have the same anxiety that I did before, but there is still anxiety it is just different. What would I be anxious about you may be thinking. Well now that I am a guide dog user I always think, is today going to be another day where I have to argue my way into a restaurant, is today going to be the day that every points and stares and they put me in the back corner like an outcast.
Even my children and my husband will try to avoid going to a sit down restaurant or a new restaurant because they worry if we will have any issues. I am not someone who will not go because I am worried about what will happen when I show up with a dog. But the worry is always still there.
Sometimes you get really lucky and you are reminded that this is how it should be. Last night my family went to a mew Boston Pizza near our home for my sons 13th birthday. On the way to the restaurant the kids and my husband were saying hopefully we have no issues. I was hopeful that we wouldn’t. We walked in and there was no question or comment about Danson (huge win). Then we sat down and I asked for a braille menu, and she came back with one! That seriously never happens. There are very few places that have a braille menu.
I was able to read the menu myself and pick something new. We had a great dinner and when I left it got me thinking. This is how it is for people every single time they want to go out to eat. And yet here I am as a blind woman and I almost celebrate because I was able to enter a restaurant with no questions, order my own food off a menu I can read, and sit and laugh and make memories with my children as my guide dog lays at my feet. This should not be the case, in todays age we should all have the freedom and ability to go out and enjoy a small thing like having dinner without any barriers.
Until Next Time,
Ashley and Danson