Come one come all to California Pizza Kitchen! No not you in the wheelchair.

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):

California Pizza Kitchen in Bangalore, India

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.




  1. CaitieCat says

    LOL, nice finish. Another quality post from you folks – very glad that FtB has added you here. 🙂

  2. says

    What a great example of privilege that ought to be easy for even the staunchest hypersceptics to comprehend. When we say we want buildings to be accessible, we aren’t saying that architects are evil people, merely that they’ve been raised in a culture where the default person that society is built around is not in a wheelchair. It takes work to be mindful that “Default Person” is not everyone, and most likely is the person with the most power (white, relatively wealthy, educated, able-bodied, straight, cis, male). It just makes sense that since society is built for him, society is built to discriminate against everyone who don’t share whichever trait with him. He can go up the steps, so he’s got the privilege, as does everyone else who shares that trait with him. Do we want to chop off his legs so he can’t get in either? Hell no. We want the architect to make sure there’s a ramp, so we’re all on a level playing field (so to speak). Does that do any harm to him? Okay, maybe the restaurant will be more crowded and he’ll have to wait a few more minutes to be seated. But on the other hand, it means he can have lunch with a colleague who happens to have a spinal injury. It means if he gets in an accident and needs crutches for a couple of weeks, it will make it easier for him to go out. It means that when he’s meeting his wife for a family dinner he can use the ramp for the baby’s stroller. So not only is he not harmed in any significant way, his own opportunities and quality of life have increased.

    Yet, we have to deal with assholes who don’t merely ignore their privilege, but will fight tooth and nail (and harassment and rape threat) to deny it and hold on to it. They have a hate for anyone who even suggests building a ramp.

  3. Srivathsa says

    Our cities are meant only for the able bodied and car owning section of society. The rest of us can go to hell. My wife once took her grandmother for a check up to a CGHS health center. It was on the first floor and had no lifts and her grandmother was 90 years old then. The doctor after much fussing, etc came down to check her BP. We are a barbaric society.

    In contrast I once visited the New Water plant in Singapore (where they convert sewage water to potable water) and was amazed to see that it was wheelchair friendly and had tactile tiles as well. What are the chances of a wheelchair bound or visually impaired person visiting this plant – maybe 1 in a 1000 or 1 in 10000. But it was still done – maybe the laws had something to do with it.

    In Japan I found the elevator buttons had Braille on them, the staircase railings had Braille at their ends, the subway stations had a mobile platform to lift wheelchair bound passengers up the staircases. The stationmasters would inform the destination station in advance so that there would be someone waiting there to help out if needed.

    It will take a concerted effort from all of us to keep hammering the message home. I will not eat at CPK till they make their restaurant accessible to all.

  4. blindrobin says

    I find it interesting that you may have expected an American company to be more sensitive to peoples needs. The Americans with Disabilities Act is highly resented by most corporations and many small businesses as something that forces them to spend money to accommodate those that they, in many cases, would rather not serve.

  5. F [is for fluvial] says

    I find it completely odd to build a newer structure without accounting for suck things as ease of access for all people. I’ve encountered far too many places which are older and not built with this in mind, but which are staffed with people who will go out of their way to accommodate, say, people in wheelchairs. (Even to the point of acting in technically “wrong” manners against insurance rules and possible the law.) Wouldn’t it be easier on everyone to make it accessible from the start?

  6. lorn says

    Down here in Florida wheelchair accessibility is incorporated into the building code and is enforceable by simply informing “Codes Enforcement” . It is pretty cut and dried. A nearby restaurant had a complaint filed and the inspectors were there in under a week. They were given ninety days to comply and I worked on the project. In this case it was the bathrooms with narrow doors, and inadequate room in the restroom to maneuver a wheelchair.

    Talking to an inspector he seemed to say that it was considered a life-safety issue because if a fire broke out with disabled people inside they would have trouble getting out and might both become casualties and cause more injury by blocking the wheelchair inaccessible exits. The idea is that a public occupancy has to be able to be evacuated in a set amount of time and people in wheelchairs count.

    As it was the restaurant owner was aware of the problem but had hoped to take care of it during the next renovation.The last renovation was better than a decade in the past and the next hadn’t been scheduled. As it was the end result was pleasing to customers, it was decrepit and needed updating, and codes enforcement, who were generous in their extension of time limits as long as progress was being made.

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