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Going Out to Dinner

Going out to dinner should be an enjoyable experience for everyone. When you are living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) planning ahead can prevent unforeseen challenges while dining out. These tips can help you continue to relish the pleasure of dining out by preplanning the experience.

Choosing the Restaurant

  • Choose places that serve the meal at your table to simplify the experience. Buffet-style restaurants requiring a customer to juggle a tray with a dinner plate and a drink can present difficulties or fall risks as Parkinson’s progresses.
  • Try to dine early and time your meal for when your medications are most effective. Most people dine out after 6 p.m. A 5 p.m. arrival allows for quicker seating, faster food service and a more private dining experience.

Call Ahead

  • Call the restaurant beforehand to ask about the menu and specific food choices if you have dietary restrictions. Most restaurants also provide their menu options online. Some people living with Parkinson’s find that protein-heavy meals can interfere with their medications.
  • Confirm that the eatery has accessible facilities and policies.
  • Ask about any special concerns, such as the availability of wheelchair-accessible seating or chairs with armrests, which can make it easier to get in and out of the chair
  • People who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices should:
  • Confirm that the restaurant offers accessible parking.
  • If only street parking is available, ask if the street has sidewalk curb cuts or curb ramps to ease wheelchair access. If the path is not clear, ask the restaurant's manager about alternative access methods.
  • Confirm that you can get through the main entrance door. Make sure any stairs or steps can be "ramped."
  • Ask where the restrooms are located. If they are below or above the floor where you will be dining, ask if an elevator or ramp is available. Also ask whether there is enough space in the restrooms for you to turn easily.
  • Find out if the restaurant's dining tables are at least 28 inches from the floor to the top of the table. If a person wants to transfer from the wheelchair to a seat, the restaurant staff should offer to move the wheelchair to an area with less traffic.

What You Should Expect

  • If you experience difficulties with speech, the restaurant's employees should allow you enough time to speak or supply a pen and paper if you request it.
  • Most restaurants are happy to make reasonable policy and procedure modifications to accommodate customer needs. This includes offering bendable straws or a glass, cup or dish of a different size if needed; cutting steak or chops into bite-sized pieces before serving or filling coffee halfway to minimize spills and burns. You can also bring your own utensils, straw, cup, sticky placemat, plate or bowl, to make sure what you need is easily available. It is reasonable to ask the staff to use your equipment to make your meal more enjoyable.
  • All restaurants must allow service animals to accompany customers with disabilities.

While these measures are generally accepted as good business practices, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that no restaurant can deny service to a person with a disability because of the disability or related behaviors.

Want to learn more? Check out the Tips for Healthy Living Expert Briefings webinar.

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