The American pizza chain California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) opened last year in Bangalore, and here is a picture of the restaurant (the description is in the text below):
The restaurant has a long glass facade revealing the tables inside, and the entire thing is raised about a foot and a half off ground level. Outside the facade is a parking area, and on the far end is the entrance, which you have to climb three steps to reach. If you’re familiar with disability rights activism and universal design, you will immediately have noticed that there is no ramp.
As I documented in this earlier photo-essay of shops and restaurants on this same road, inaccessibility is the norm here. But it’s particularly galling when an American company which would be subject to the Americans With Disabilities Act in its home country promptly abandons these ethical practices in foreign lands. When I posted this photo on CPK India’s Facebook page, I got this reply which I now recognise as a corporate-issue blow-off:
We appreciate & value your suggestion and have passed it to our Management. We are looking into this and shall come up with appropriate measures how to incorporate this across all CPKs.
California Pizza Kitchen India Management.
That was eight months ago. Today, the restaurant looks exactly the same.
Last month I had the pleasure of meeting V.S. Sunder, who blogs at Different Strokes. He was here on a family visit, and I went and met him over coffee. I picked him up in my car and we went to a five-star hotel – because that was the only place likely to be accessible. I considered the nearby NGMA too, but while its walkways and cafeteria are accessible, I’m pretty sure its restrooms are not. That meeting was a sobering reminder of my privilege. Just to show how insidious it is, like a fool I used the phrase “limping along” during our conversation. It slipped out without need or warning; I instantly realised it and regretted it, and later reflected on how one has to take active measures to check one’s privilege. It’s work – it doesn’t just happen. Such is the nature of social systems – they prescribe these “paths of least resistance”, and it takes an active effort to take a different path. Oppressive social systems are also identified with privileged groups – i.e., the privileged group is the human default, the standard, and the norms and values of society neatly fall in place to suit them. No one in these corporations is thinking “I’m going to keep ‘those’ people out”. But because building design itself is identified with people who are nondisabled, the oppression and the marginalisation just happen, seemingly without any intent on anyone’s part. What is unforgivable in my mind is when even after you’ve been made aware of the problem, you ignore it – like CPK is doing here.
I plan to blog more about social systems in future posts. As for CPK, I’ll be emailing them. I’ve also gotten in touch with an old college mate who is now a journalist at NDTV, and I hope they will do a story on it. Every time I walk past this restaurant now, I want to go piss on their doorstep – “drizzle” THAT on your pizza assholes.