South Africa: Dear Careless Restaurateur - Screw You and Your Stairs


When you have mobility issues, the message from most eateries is clear: you're not wanted here.

We are a falling family. We fall down near salad bars, in café courtyards, down flights of stairs studded with fancy downlighters. Most of the time, we laugh it off. My sister will initially refuse the help of a waiter to pull her up off the floor. She'll close her eyes and count to three as she tries to get up on her own. Then, after a few attempts, she'll submit to strong arms, swallowing her pride as she is heaved into an upright position, where she'll need a few minutes to steady herself. "Don't let me go," she will urge the waiter. "Just keep holding me."

Eating out is the only leisure activity my sister can do. It was the same for my mother and brother, before their bodies were eventually whittled away by muscular dystrophy. While she is not confined to a wheelchair, my sister struggles to walk and balance. She can't do stairs, nor even faintly uneven ground, and grass, cobbles and paving are out. She can't walk more than 50 metres without getting tired and unsteady, and her poor balance...

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