The Cheesecake Factory

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Several years ago I was doing a lot of traveling for work. My colleague and I occasionally found ourselves walking into The Cheesecake Factory for some comfort food.

If you’ve ever been, you know that at a certain time of night they turn the lights down in the restaurant. They call it ambiance; I call it frustrating. For a person with a visual impairment, it can be hard enough to read a menu in a dimly lit restaurant. But in an almost pitch-black restaurant, it’s impossible.

On this particular evening we decided to ask the waitress if it was possible for them to turn the lights back to their daytime setting. Of course the initial response was, “No, it’s on a timer. We can bring some more candles for the table.”

Imagine the small amount of light coming from a candle! Not particularly in the mood for a mini battle, I simply nodded and moved on. Not five minutes later, the entire restaurant lit up with light. As it turned out — and no surprise to us — the timer had an “override” setting. It was a simple modification made for one evening, but for me it was a big deal.

Why is this story even important? Think about it this way: 56.7 million Americans identified as having a disability in the 2010 U.S. Census. Add to that their friends and family members. Suddenly overriding the timer becomes not only important but pertinent to meeting the bottom line.

Many companies today are seeing the value in making their businesses friendly to people with disabilities. By increasing the accessibility of their facility, providing disability awareness training to staff and developing disability-friendly policies, these companies are opening the doors to an untapped customer and employee base.

In my capacity as manager of Paraquad’s AccessibleSTL program, one thing I have learned is that many companies want to create an inclusive culture for people with disabilities but simply don’t know where to start. Or some may think it’s too complicated or too expansive.

Accessibility is, by its nature, complicated without a place to go to for assistance and strategies. This is where AccessibleSTL comes in. Our team can assist any organization by providing an Americans with Disabilities Act site survey, training and education, policy review and development and technical assistance. Our main objective is to make it easier for you to include people with disabilities in your business strategies because sometimes accessibility is as simple as overriding the timer.

Christy Herzing is the Community Access Coordinator at Paraquad. She can be reached at cherzing@paraquad.org.

Photo credit: Rocor

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