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Food for thought

Edinburgh restaurant, The Huxley, will launch Scotland’s first audio-menu for blind and partially sighted customers today in partnership with RNIB Scotland.

Ten diners with sight loss have been invited to lunch at The Huxley in the city's west end to try out the new service. They will be offered the option of hearing the menu on an iPad or having it sent to their smartphones which can read it back to them using speech software.

Dan Meikle (31) from Edinburgh, who has the sight loss condition optic Lieber's neuropathy, is one of the guests. "People who have sight loss enjoy eating out with family and friends, just like everybody else does," he said. "But too often we're simply not able to make out what choices are on the menu. It can be embarrassing to have to rely on somebody else to read it out to you.

"Some restaurants like to present their menus in very fancy, stylish script or in very small font-sizes. In other cases, the contrast between the lettering and the background colour can be very poor. I know even some of my fully sighted friends can struggle to read these.

"So, it's great to be able to just come in and know you can make your choice of meal in your own time without having to rely on a companion to read it out or repeat it to you..."

The idea for the audio-menu came from a member of The Huxley team, Kirsty Cameron. Whilst volunteering with RNIB Scotland, Kirsty learned that dining out can often be an intimidating experience for those with sight loss. Working in the hospitality industry, Kirsty won the backing of Signature Pubs, which owns The Huxley, and RNIB Scotland to create the new menu service.

Mike Lewis, general manager of The Huxley said: “We’re launching this new initiative to help make dining out a great experience for everyone. When Kirsty brought this to our attention, we knew we could do something to make a difference and it’s been fantastic to work in partnership with RNIB Scotland to make it happen.”

Signature - which has 24 venues across Scotland including hotels, bars, and restaurants - is aiming to introduce the audio-menu service into other venues later this year and is also planning to arrange a 'Dine in the Dark' event in partnership with RNIB Scotland.