This week we are considering the potential difficulties faced by diners with a disability. Now of course the number one problem is probably going to be an unhelpful and uncompromising attitude on behalf of the restaurant staff (or maybe not. You tell me), but what of the problems that are met with good will but a lack of imagination for finding a solution?

 

Well, I came across a product that provides a clever and imaginative solution for people who want to go out for a meal but happen to be visually impaired. If you cannot see very well, then reading a menu may well present some difficulties. Menus That Talk is a company based in the United States that makes (who’d have guessed it?) menus that talk.

They come in a variety of languages, the device itself is electronic and interactive, has the dimensions of a DVD box, and it is equipped with braille buttons. The idea apparently sprung to mind three years ago when the CEO, Susan Perry, was out dinning with her niece who was visually impaired. Susan had forgotten her reading glasses at home and this combined with the fact that the restaurant was dimly lit meant that it was virtually impossible for either of them to read the menu.

The way it works is very simple. A variety of buttons, each with braille markings, denote the different categories of food (starters, main course, appetizers, drinks, etc). Upon being pushed each button will list out loud the different dishes available as well as the cost.

Susan Perry was eager to fill me in on other recent developments. The menus have now gone digital and have a function that allows guests to order from their menus in a variety of languages. The order is then relayed electronically to the kitchen and printed in English. This function is useful not only in restaurants but also for healthcare, and has already been adopted by the south Miami hospital. Menus That Talk are also equipped with an audio handset that is connected to the main device. This was thought of to enable diners who are hard of hearing. Could Menus That Talk be the next great enabling design?

 

If you want to find out more, why not check out the Menus That Talk website by clicking here.

And take a look at Susan Perry presenting the device at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago back in 2008.

 

So what do you think of Menus That Talk? Ever come across one of them before? What other problems could be addressed to make eating out easier? Comment below please.

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