Top Restaurants Face Scrutiny Over Access to the Disabled

Disabled AccessBy PATRICK WALL
September 20, 2011 5:51 pm

Many of Manhattan’s top restaurants will soon receive mailings from a federal prosecutor’s office in New York checking whether they are accessible to disabled patrons.

About 50 of Manhattan’s most popular restaurants, as rated by the 2011 Zagat Guide, will have until the end of October to indicate on the surveys how accessible they are to disabled people, according to Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan.

Inspectors may then visit the restaurants to confirm the responses. The compliance review was not prompted by any specific complaint, but is mandated by law, prosecutors said.

The survey questions include whether restaurants have devices that allow hosts to take reservations from guests who are deaf or have speech impairments; how many tables with window views are wheelchair accessible; and whether the establishments have policies to ensure that special menus are available for the blind.

“More than 20 years after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, public accommodations like restaurants have little excuse for not complying with this important civil rights law,” Mr. Bharara said in a statement.
Mr. Bharara said he hoped restaurants found to be “seriously deficient” would voluntarily upgrade their facilities rather than face litigation and possibly fines.

One of the restaurants expecting a compliance survey is Per Se, which serves contemporary American cuisine from the fourth floor of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle and is among the top-ranked restaurants in the city.

“We can roll a guest in a wheelchair from the entrance to a table without any problems,” said Gerald San Jose, a spokesman for Per Se, who added that accessibility was a major design consideration.
Still, he said that if the survey reveals any accessibility shortfalls, the restaurant will move to fix them.

“Definitely, if we are out of compliance,” said Mr. San Jose, “we will try our best to get back into it.”

The United States Attorney’s office conducted an accessibility review in 2005 of about 50 Times Square hotels. After that assessment, 33 hotels agreed to make their lodgings more accessible to guests with disabilities, prosecutors said.

 


June 10, 2014

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