Saturday, October 25, 2014

Shorewood Restaurants Get Braille Menus
by Jessica Tighe

Most of the restaurants in Shorewood have new menus. They're menus most people will never use, but for those who do it's going to make a big difference.  

Cheri McGrath and Cheryl Orgas are both blind. They love going out to eat, but it can be challenging because they can't read regular menus.

"It can be very frustrating especially if the menu is large and you have to have someone from the wait staff take that time to read it," McGrath says.

The tea menu at Anaba Tea Room in Shorewood is a perfect example. It has 70 flavors of tea on it and that's just the beginning.

"There's a lot of description. There are different sizes for each tea vessel. There's a lot of info there. Even people with perfect vision have a hard time going through the menu," Harmony Nelson, manager at Anaba, explains.

But dining out in Shorewood just got a whole lot easier for the blind. The non-profit "Audio & Braille Literacy Enhancement", or ABLE, started a program to bring braille menus to every restaurant in the village. The Shorewood Men's Club donated $500 to get the project started and all of the restaurants should have them by the end of the summer.

"It creates the opportunity for independence for blind people. It also says to the community that braille is available and it's still being used throughout our community and country. There's thinking out there that braille's obsolete and that's simply not the case," Orgas says.

Not only do the braille menus make the experience easier, they also make it more enjoyable.

"When you have braille, you have a written language. You are completely literate. You can go back and review. It's wonderful. It's so much nicer if you browse like other folks do and you can discuss with everyone your choices," McGrath says.

The workers at the restaurant are pleased with the project too.

"Before we had the braille menu, we would have to read it to individuals. It can definitely slow things down if the server has other tables to take care of so this is definitely a huge help," Nelson says.

It's a huge help for the restaurants and a big benefit for the blind. Shorewood is the first community in Wisconsin to bring braille to every menu in town and others are already taking note. City leaders in West Bend say they want to be the second community.