Website Aims For Increased Accessibility In Cincinnati

Jul 5, 2017

Two Cincinnati residents who know what a difference accessibility can make when it comes to going out to eat have created a new mobile and desktop website. The pair worked together on Access Cincinnati which shares the accessibility of restaurants and bars in downtown.

Nestor Melnyk and his co-founder Kathleen Cail have known each other for roughly 18 years. Both being parents of children with disabilities, they met when their children were infants. Melnyk says the inspiration for creating this site came down to their children and their parents who were getting older and having a harder time getting around. He said they took a wider look at the world around them and realized the things that help those with disabilities help everyone.

Melnyk said they looked at the universal design of the city to try to find the most accessible aspects. Melnyk and Cail applied for, and received, the People's Liberty Grant from the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Foundation and used the money to fund Access Cincinnati.

The Access Cincinnati website allows people to find out the accessibility information for a variety of establishments to see if a restaurant will meet their needs. The site caters to differently-abled people, people with young children, and the elderly. According to a news release, 13 percent of Cincinnati residents are senior citizens, and 12 percent of Hamilton County residents have some form of disability. Melnyk says the site will allow people to make their own decisions about where to eat or drink.

People can search by the name of a restaurant, or can look through the list of nearby restaurants and bars. When they choose a restaurant on the site, they will have access to the rating, the address, phone number, website, directions, and Yelp reviews.

The site breaks down bars and restaurants into three categories: entrance, space, and restrooms. Each category includes green, yellow, or red levels of accessibility. Melnyk says they are not there to be the accessibility police and he does not want to penalize people whose businesses aren't as accessible. He says he thinks restaurants should want to be at a higher level than the Americans with Disabilities Act requires.

To get a green rating in entrance, a restaurant or bar would need to have a main entrance that has no steps. A yellow rating would mean there may be one step with a ramp upon request or that there may be a secondary entrance that is more accessible. A red rating would mean there are multiple stairs in the main entrance and the secondary entrance is still not accessible without help.

For space, a green rating would mean the restaurant or bar is spacious with a combination of tables, booths, and bar or high top tables. A yellow rating would mean there is some space and there are tables in addition to bar or high top seating options. A red rating would show there is minimal space and bar access only, or there may be steps to lead into the dining area.

In terms of restrooms, a green rating would show there are either accessible gender specific restrooms or accessible unisex bathrooms. Yellow would mean it is accessible but it may be a tight fit or it may not be fully accessible. Red indicates there are either no public restrooms or no accessible restrooms.

The site has rated 143 restaurants and bars Downtown, in Over-the-Rhine, and Uptown so far, but Melnyk says the possibility of expansion is in their minds. "We've already had a lot of interest from other communities around town that want to do this," he said. "We've even had interest from other communities across the state and even some across the country."

The restaurants who have been reviewed will have an Access Cincinnati window cling that will show if they received a green or yellow marking in any of the three categories. Melnyk says they don't want to call anyone out with a red marking, but they want to encourage the restaurants and bars to make changes to become more accessible.