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California teen works with favorite restaurants to add braille menus

A patron at a Toronto McDonald’s holds the restaurant’s braille menu.
A patron at a Toronto McDonald’s holds the restaurant’s braille menu.
Photo: Bernard Weil/Toronto Star (Getty Images)

While a few restaurants have made strides in the field of accessibility, change doesn’t come fast enough to benefit all diners with disabilities. So Mason Fessenden, a high school senior from Monrovia, California, used a school project to create change in his own way. KABC reports on Fessenden’s push to design braille menus for local restaurants, so that he and other patrons can read the menus at favorite establishments.

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Fessenden, who has been blind since birth, saw his project funded through a grant. He notes that “Before the menus, I felt sort of like I wasn’t included ... I was excluded from what was on the menu. I heard my parents’ voices.” After self-designing and releasing the menus, they’re now in rotation at several Monrovia establishments.

What Fessenden has done is commendable, and an example of individuals taking on broader problems. But the story also offers a necessary reminder that too few public spaces support the needs of customers with disabilities. It’s fantastic that Fessenden was able to identify and solve a problem, but people with disabilities are frequently tasked with self-advocacy, and it’s up to more than just the directly concerned to make such accomodations a universal standard. If in reading this and wondering what you could do to further accessibility in restaurants, start with this site’s previous features how to make restaurants meals more accessible and comfortable for people who are blind and/or deaf.

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The Takeout’s hats are off to Mason for coming up with an idea that will undoubtedly benefit many people beyond himself, and putting it into action. And as far as next steps go, he’s “...launched his own company called Clarity Menus and More. He plans on taking his menu making skills beyond the San Gabriel Valley once he graduates high school in June.” We wish him luck.

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DISCUSSION

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That’s pretty neat, good for him. Monrovia’s a nice area with a lot of restaurants, including chain restaurants, so there’s plenty to tackle, including occasional menu and price changes. I wonder if he can get some assistance from the braille institute in East Hollywood/Silverlake.

The lead image was confusing the hell out of me as McDonalds is the one place I know offers a braille menu.