COLUMBIA, S.C. — Reading the menu at restaurants becomes easier for those who are visually impaired with the help of the National Federation of the Blind South Carolina.
More than 20 years ago, the federation bought a embosser to translate writing into braille. The program would turn restaurant menus and other writing into braille for visually impaired customers. Now, the federation is revamping the program with a brand new printer and software.
"We're right in the beginning stages of promoting this program again and getting it off the ground again," says NFB Vice President of Computer Science and Technology, Steve Cook. "I'm excited about it."
The goal of the program is to essentially bring braille into the public eye and normalizing it's use. Cook is now reaching out to as many restaurants as possible to partner with the federation so the blind community can enjoy the dining experience.
"It gives me equal access to a sighted companion sitting at my table, to the menu," says Cook.
NFB Chairman, Ed Bible, is working alongside Cook to make this possible across the state.
As of right now, many large chain restaurants provide a braille alternative for the menu, but not many small, local businesses do. That is what the federation is hoping to change. They say the ultimate dream would be to have braille menus in every restaurant.
Bible reflected on the many times he has felt embarrassed or disrespected at restaurants because he is blind. He says his wife usually has to read the menu options to him, giving him only one chance to pick what he wants to eat, while everyone else gets to take their time browsing the menu before choosing. "That privilege is taken away from the blind," Bible says.
Cook has an important message for others in a dining setting, "Treat us as if you would any other person coming through your cash register, that sits at your table. We're the same."
Restaurants can buy braille menus for much cheaper at only one dollar per page. They just want to make it as easy as possible for businesses to become fully inclusive for all customers.The federation prints over 20,000 pages of braille per year for various purposes.
If you would like to have your restaurant menu or other materials transcribed into braille, you can submit orders through the National Federation of the Blind South Carolina website. You can also call the Federation Center of the Blind at (803) 254-3777