What’s on the menu today? Braille….

Imagine walking into a local café and discovering it has an inclusive Braille menu. It can be empowering to read a menu yourself without relying on others to read it to you if you have a vision impairment.

Victoria Park café ‘Duncan Street Store@Soul Provider’, now has its first ever Braille drinks menu. The café manager Sean approached us to transcribe it – and we were only happy to oblige.

Many VisAbility clients use the café because of its close proximity to the VisAbility building. We wanted to ensure it was accurate, so we invited Medgee, a competent Braille reader to road test the inclusive Braille menu and meet with Sean, the café manager.

A group of people sit around a table in outdoor space outside a café
The inclusive Braille drinks menu is available at the café closest to VisAbility

Also present were the people who transcribed it, Braille Production Officer Leone Carroll with her colleague Braille Production Officer Samantha Harratt.

Sean, what’s the background to this menu?

It makes practical sense because some of our customers have low vision. Many people don’t understand what it’s like to have limited vision.

One day, while I was working, a woman with a white cane approached me. She had been walking along the street. Because we have a café terrace with tables and chairs, she said: “I can hear a lot of noise – what’s going on here?” It made me realise how difficult it was for people with limited vision.

Leone and Medgee approach the counter in the café area
The menu is available in a laminate and a booklet

It piqued my interest to get a Braille menu done. VisAbility Accessibility Specialist Vithya Vijayakumare is a regular client. I broached the subject with her.

We decided on producing a drinks menu only because we change our food a lot. It was important that the Braille format was easy to read – with the drinks items and prices matching up.

The initial reaction to our Braille drinks menu has been very welcoming. It sparks conversation as well.

Leone – was this a straightforward Braille project?

Yes, very much so. We completed both a booklet and a laminated version which is double-sided. The laminated one will probably last longer because the dots on the paper can wear.

The size of the Braille needed to be consistent. We decided to opt for contracted Grade 2 Braille. It uses the same letters as Grade 1 Braille, but there are contractions to represent some common words or groups. It’s a bit like shorthand.

Grade 2 Braille is the most commonly used form of Braille code. You’ll find it in books and menus.

Medgee uses her fingers to read across the Braille
Medgee, said it was clear and easy to understand

Medgee, you’re competent in Braille what’s your take on this menu?

It’s wonderful, clear to read, with ample Braille spacings and Grade 2 abbreviations! I prefer the laminated one because it’s quicker to read. My hands easily glide over the Braille dots.

I was born with Stargardt’s Disease and macular degeneration. Until a few years ago, I had 10% vision, but now it’s less than 1%, so I can only make out shadows.

I’m originally from Mauritius, arriving in Australia when I was just 22, so I can read French Braille. I’m part of an advanced Braille reading group organised through VisAbility that meets every Monday. I’m up to Grade 3 that has more compressed words than level one or two.

It is definitely a step in the right direction because it gives me greater independence. Plus, an inclusive Braille menu raises awareness about accessibility in everyday life.

Manny hands over the braille menus to the owner of Sage cafeFirst café to offer Braille menus 

Previously, following a call-out on social media inviting cafes and restaurants to contact us, Sage Café in Victoria Park were the first to offer Braille menus, back in April 2019. 

Cormac O’Brien is the manager and joint owner. “We saw your Instagram post and were keen to get involved as we have one man who regularly eats here who is vision impaired.”

We have introduced ramps and disability-friendly toilets, so it makes sense to have Braille menus.

The cafe will be using VisAbility to produce the Braille menus and will update them every season.

“We’ll approach those who are vision impaired with a menu as they walk in. I just hope in time Braille menus become the norm, rather than the exception.”

I love it, it means I can sit down with friends and have my own menu to read myself and not ask others what’s available.

Manny Lee
Braille user

How to get support

Please complete the form below to make an initial enquiry about learning Braille or our other low vision services and support we can provide. Our Client Experience Team will contact you to discuss your individual needs both now and into the future.

If you are interested in getting your own menus or other types of documentation transcribed into Braille, please contact our Accessible Information Team.

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