I have a visual impairment, and I get around with a guide dog.
There's a cafe I go to about once a week. They mostly know me there, and I've never had trouble bringing my guide dog in, so thankfully that's not what this story is about.
As I go in, I spot a table (Table A) that has just the right amount of light to be useful for me but without glare.
I started heading towards it and a waitress who I’m familiar with stopped me and said, “Oh I need to sit you on this side of the restaurant.”
I was a bit puzzled as to why, but went with it.
But the table she was leading me to (Table B). has no light to it. My impairment sees this dim location as being the black of midnight.
I ask, “That table is too dark, shall I take this one instead?” (Table C), pointing to one nearer to a window.
She looks at me like I'm crazy. “But you always sit there!” pointing to Table B.
It pissed me off because not only do I not normally sit there, I’m giving her the information she needs to meet my accessibility requirements and she’s treating me like I’m being a difficult customer. I’m not a difficult customer. I’m just trying to do my best living with a visual impairment (I was also with my mother who is ageing, and my young child, and my guide dog).
I’m just trying to pick a table where I’ll be able to see my food.
As soon as I sat down at the third table, a couple walked in and walked over to Table A and sat at it! There’s no reservations in this place, they just obviously decided they liked that table. It’s very informal and a seat yourself kind of place. Regardless, the accessibility requirements take precedence - a visual impairment has the same legal status as a wheelchair user - you sit where it meets YOUR needs, not what’s most convenient for the service provider.
Like many visual impairments, lighting is crucial and lighting and shadows change all the time so what might work one day, doesn’t work another day. I constantly have to adapt and be flexible, risk assess and manage my environment. It’s exhausting.
Having staff refuse me a spot of my choosing and then argue (incorrectly) about my usual seating choice makes me feel like my visual impairment is being disregarded or that they think I'm making it up somehow.