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Fall 2011

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Making Dining Out Accessible

Preparation is the Key for Social Outings

By Lori Bravi

Dining out can be a very exciting step in returning to a social life after stroke. It brings back a sense of normalcy and adds a social event to your week. You may have come a long way in your recovery and possibly are now at a level where you can feel comfortable leaving home either by yourself or with some company.

Depending on the changes you might experience after stroke, dining out again can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help you get ready for enjoying an outing with family or friends.

Plan Ahead: New or challenging situations can be easier if planned out in advance.

Visit the restaurant ahead of time to identify the best table for a wheelchair.
Pick a table with a clear path or one close to 
the bathroom.
If your balance requires having armrests, call ahead to make sure they have the right chair for you.
If you are just getting comfortable with walking in public spaces with your walker or cane, consider a table closer to the front of the restaurant.

Menu Choices: Pick up a copy of the menu or view it online prior to your visit.

If you are working on reading comprehension or verbal expression after stroke, take your time reading the menu at home—without feeling rushed.
If you are working on expression and would prefer to place your own order at the table, seeing the menu earlier can help you practice verbal expression of your order before getting to the restaurant.
If you have specific diet restrictions, this will give you time to make any special requests of the kitchen ahead of time.

Adapted Silverware: Many people use adapted silverware or plate guards after stroke, which enable independent eating and use of a weaker hand.

Metal plate guards are often bulky. Purchase disposable metal bakeware that is flexible so you can cut out a similar plate guard that will be disposable after use. This takes the hassle out of storing your personal plate guard in a bag to take home and clean.
If you are working on using your weaker hand to eat, it can be less frustrating if you allow yourself three bites with your stronger hand for every one bite with your weaker hand. You are still incorporating the weaker hand but not putting yourself under unnecessary stress while enjoying some time out away from home.

Many restaurants are eager to accommodate your requests—do not be afraid to ask. Bon appétit!

Lori Bravi, MS, OTR/L, is a Level IV Clinical Occupational Therapist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. She has over 10 years of experience specializing in rehabilitation of neurological deficits and is also an active teaching member of the RIC Academy on a national level. Bravi has dedicated many years of research to upper extremity function and motor control after stroke and is a two-time recipient of the Buchanan Fellowship and Baskin Award for Research at RIC.

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