Can you imagine going out to a restaurant, only to be a turned away by the waiters once they spot your wheelchair? "Either the sidewalk is too high, or there are steps leading to the entrance. Most of the times I have to be carried up the steps. But there have also been times when I was denied entry because there were too many stairs and the employees weren't willing to help," said Virali Modi, 26, who has been wheelchair-bound ever since she suffered a spinal chord injury in 2006.

Virali Modi said that she has to be carried into most restaurants, since they do not have ramps
Virali Modi said that she has to be carried into most restaurants, since they do not have ramps

Only 1 in 5 have ramps
For all its claims of being the 'maximum city', turns out Mumbai can't do even the bare minimum for the physically challenged. Most restaurants don't even have a wheelchair ramp. Frustrated, Modi began to record her experiences at eateries. Over a span of three months (May-July), the Malad resident visited 25 restaurants across the city and found that only five had ramps.

"I was very surprised, since most of their websites mention that they are wheelchair-accessible or disabled-friendly. Some had steps leading up to the entrance, in others, the bathrooms were not accessible as the passage was too narrow for wheelchairs," she said.

Also read: Disability is child's play! South Mumbai gets first disabled-friendly garden

Demanding change
On September 27 (World Tourism Day), a group of like-minded activists launched a petition to make restaurants in India more accessible to the disabled, via the campaign #RampMyRestaurant. The online petition is addressed to the Ministry of Social Welfare And Development, Ministry of Tourism India and the National Restaurant Association of India, demanding that all restaurants build a ramp at the entrance for total or easy access. This has been suggested as the first step to making restaurants 100% disabled-friendly.

Also read: Mumbai Metro is not very disabled-friendly

"I'm a travel freak and love to go around and visit different places. But I found a lot of places to be very inaccessible. I have many friends on wheelchairs who have been confined to their houses for the last 10-15 years, mainly because of the lack of infrastructure outside. Restaurants are a big part of socialising, and you rarely see people in wheelchairs going out and having a good time. Accessibility is a must, and that's what we are pushing for," said Modi.