CTV News London Reporter
Published Aug. 25, 2023
Terry Hoddinott lost his vision to cancer when he was just three years old. He now runs a London, Ont.-based business that seeks to improve life for others with visual impairments.
He admits there are always hurdles to overcome, like the one he experienced during a recent visit to a Boston Pizza in Toronto when he asked for a braille menu.
“They said, ‘Well, we have QR codes’,” recounted Hoddinott. “I told them that doesn’t work, it’s not accessible and they said, ‘We can stand here and read it to you’ and I was flabbergasted.”
Hoddinott said that option draws unwanted attention to people with visual impairments and makes the dining experience less pleasurable, “Independence is out the window when I have to stand there while you’re reading the items to me. I have to ask the prices, flip back and forth.”
He said it can be particularly awkward during a business lunch or in certain social situations, like a first date.
Hoddinott is supporting a change.org campaign designed to have all restaurants offer alternative menus with large print and braille in them. He says the large print is also helpful for seniors or those who don’t do well in low-light situations.
Hoddinott said restaurants would only need two or three accessible menus on hand, “You keep them behind the desk. When you have somebody come in asking for them, you provide them at the table. Simple as that.”
Hoddinot said Boston Pizza had braille menus up until about four years ago, but switched to using QR codes. The code links to an online menus and utilizes text-to-voice or text to braille technology, which links to a portable braille translation device.
Hoddinott said the technology is unreliable and not helpful for people who aren’t tech savvy.
His business, Braille Masters, does custom braille transcriptions and printing. That does include providing braille menus to some clients, but he insists his campaign isn’t designed to attract business.
He would have no issues if another business landed the contract to provide braille menus. Just so long as they’re available to customers, “It’s one of those things that’s a simple, easy fix and there’s no reason for them not to do it.”
Hoddinott has been reaching out to area MPPs to draw attention to the issue and says he and others are considering an Ontario Human Rights Commission Appeal.