by Robin Whyte | photo by Janis Jean Photography –
It’s National AccessAbility Week from May 29 to June 4, and with inclusion being top of mind, it makes sense that we celebrate local businesses that incorporate Universal Design. As defined on the Rick Hansen Foundation website, Universal Design is “the design and structure of an environment so that it can be understood, accessed, and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age or ability.” With slightly more than 20% of our population identifying as having some form of disability, it makes sense that businesses are accessible to all.
On my website: “Girl About Town: Accessible Victoria” (www.girlabouttown.ca) I post reviews of local restaurants and attractions that I have the ability to enjoy because they’re wheelchair-friendly (or in my case, scooter-friendly). I’m an Accessibility Consultant and among other things, a lover of getting out and enjoying great food and experiences.
Accessibility isn’t the only reason a place of business should get recognition, but it’s a big one for me. If I can’t get in, I can’t enjoy that delicious meal, cool shop, great concert, etc. Fortunately, there are many restaurants on the Peninsula that are doing a great job of offering a superb dining experience in a barrier-free space. Here is my top 10 list.
1 The Pub at Brentwood Bay Resort, Brentwood Bay
Designed with accessibility at top of mind. Tables and chairs can be moved easily to accommodate a mobility device. Enjoy the views from the popular patio in the summer. Get the halibut and chips; it’s beyond delicious. www.brentwoodbayresort.com
2 The Beach House Restaurant, Cordova Bay
Situated right on the beach, the entrance is accessed by a ramp. Accessible bathrooms, and the main level is step-free with moveable tables and chairs. I highly recommend the West Coast Paella. www.beachhousevictoria.com
3 Good Fortune Restaurant, Sidney
For a delicious and always-fresh Chinese food experience, look no further. Very wheelchair-friendly, and there is a unisex accessible bathroom. Be sure to order the Ginger Fried Beef; it’s legendary. www.goodfortunerestaurantsidney.ca
4 The Village, Royal Oak
Top quality, fresh food sourced locally, and friendly and efficient service. Entirely step-free and the washroom is barrier-free. One accessible parking spot. Get your Eggs Benny with the latkes; I promise you won’t regret it. www.thevillagerestaurant.ca
5 The Five & Dime Diner, Sidney
The Five & Dime serves up meals that are big on flavour, creativity and portions. Servers are friendly and happy to help accommodate a mobility device. Moveable tables and chairs (which I prefer with my scooter), and washrooms are unisex, large and accessible. Lots of accessible parking. www.fiveanddimediner.com
6 Grays Café, Sidney
The best coffee shop in a land loaded with them. Emphasis on delicious coffee, healthy food and the yummiest protein balls ever. Some seating inside with moveable tables and chairs, which a person using a mobility device could access, and there are a few tables out on the sidewalk. The washroom is modern and accessible.
7 Church and State Wines, Brentwood Bay
Church and State Winery has amassed an impressive list of award-winning wines, and makes for a wonderful place to pop in and enjoy a tasting and some nosh. There is accessible seating in the tasting room, on the patio and in the bistro. Prepare to leave feeling full of delight and content. www.churchandstatewines.com
8 The Café at 10 Acres, Sidney
Located in the beautiful and accessible Pier Hotel, the Café is a place to meet friends for a cup of coffee or a bite of lunch. Accessible facilities in the mens and ladies washrooms, plus a dedicated single unisex bathroom. Close to the accessible walkway along the waterfront, which makes for a lovely stroll on a warm day. www.10acres.ca/cafe/
9 The Stonehouse Pub, North Saanich
Don’t be daunted by the flight of steps up to the cottage as there is a beautiful garden walkway on a gentle incline curving around to the Pub. The Stonehouse is intimate and cozy with a local following, which is a sure way to know you’ve found a good spot. Accessible parking and washrooms. www.stonehousepub.ca
10 Fish O Chips, Sidney
If you’re hankering for light and crispy, succulent fish (I’m crazy for the halibut) served with delicious chips, this is the place for you. Cozy, clean and works for mobility device users since the tables and chairs can be rearranged if need be. The large bathroom is accessible. www.fishochips.ca
Folks reading this list may be surprised to see some local favourites missing, but this article is about accessibility. Unfortunately there are a number of wonderful places that serve delicious food by helpful staff, but their facility is not accessible. Some of the restaurants on the Saanich Peninsula that are conspicuous by their absence use their dedicated accessible washroom for storage or as a staff change room. Even though these situations can present frustration, I know it’s not happening to be deliberately exclusive; rather it’s often a lack of awareness. The good news is that grants are available for businesses to make necessary changes to their accessibility. I’m grateful to see a trend towards accessibility and inclusivity in our modern times, because in the end, it’s all of us who benefit.