Research: Dining Experience For People Who are Blind

 Eating at a restaurant is a common activity, but little has been done to accommodate accessibility concerns for people who are visually impaired or blind.  In this formative study, we conducted a contextual inquiry with two participants who are blind to better understand their experience of dining at a restaurant. Through targeted questions and contextual observation, we looked for opportunities to better accommodate a nonsighted person and found that lack of awareness of restaurants and service staff is the biggest challenge our participants faced when dining out. We recommend accessible service points that can be adopted by service staff, and recommend improvements in accessible restaurant interior design.

Team: Jennifer Todd, Marlena Deren, Me




research questions

  • What obstacles do people with visual impairment encounter while in a restaurant environment? 

  • What qualities and services do people with disabilities seek out in order to have a positive experience in a restaurant setting? 

  • What design suggestions can be made to improve restaurant experience for people with visual impairment? 



We recruited two participants, Sandy and Terry, who are blind; participants were recruited through the Chicago Lighthouse.  We selected these participants because they are blind and enjoy eating at restaurants.

We observed our participant interactions with the space, restaurant staff and their meal. We noted any personal strategies and mnemonics which participants might have used. We also observed the restaurant staff and their interaction with our participant and made note.


Data analysis

After conducting both sessions, we consolidated and inductively coded our notes. After a second pass with inductive coding, we narrowed our focus and used the following codes in identifying themes: (1) Motivation and Values (2) Artifacts and Tools (3) Workaround (4) Location (5) Menu Accessibility (6) Service

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I would come back here, the guac is so good.
I don’t need to be reminded that I can’t see.


I go out eat with my sighted friends most of the time


Our team’s conclusion is that this is one experience which cannot be resolved with just another piece of technology. It requires attitude change and adjustment of human to human interaction. We make recommendations for better accommodating people who are blind through service. 

In this case, say "the omelet is at 1 o'clock"

Our participants' dream restaurant setting