Thanks Nipun! Zomato Will Now List ‘Disabled-friendly’ Restaurants

After being denied entry to a restaurant for his disability, Nipun got Zomato to list disabled-friendly restaurants.

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Activist Nipun Malhotra in Boston. (Courtesy: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/nipunmalhotra87?fref=photo">Nipun’s Facebook Page</a>)

On World Habitat Day today, The Quint revisits the story of a young man who doggedly fought for the rights of specially-abled persons to ‘disabled-friendly’ public spaces. One of the key objectives of this year’s theme ‘Public Spaces For All’ is to ensure public spaces are conducive and safe for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities.

Nearly five months after he was denied entry to an upscale restaurant in South Delhi, reportedly on account of his disability, a 27-year-old disability rights activist has been able to accomplish a rare feat – Zomato, the popular restaurant-search website, will now feature an added filter: ‘Disabled-friendly’.

Activist Nipun Malhotra had gone out with eight of his friends one evening in March this year when he was denied entry into Keya, located in DLF Promenade Mall in Vasant Kunj. While his friends were allowed in, he was reportedly told by the restaurant manager that Keya, “as a ‘policy’, did not allow entry to disabled persons”.

The incident had sparked widespread protests and anguish among disability-rights groups, thereby forcing the Aam Aadmi Party government to order a magisterial inquiry into it.

Five months later, however, Nipun has been able to get Zomato to list disabled-friendly restaurants that would help a number of specially-abled persons to choose food outlets which are accessible to them.

After the Keya incident, a number of people came to me and shared similar experiences. As a child, my parents would always pre-check if a restaurant was disabled-friendly so that I was spared of such experiences.
— Nipun Malhotra

‘Disabled-Friendly’ Feature in the Zomato App

Nipun Malhotra at Kellogg’s school of management. (Courtesy: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/nipunmalhotra87?fref=photo">Nipun’s Facebook Page</a>)
Nipun Malhotra at Kellogg’s school of management. (Courtesy: Nipun’s Facebook Page)

It was on a recent visit to the US to attend a week-long course at the Kellogg School of Management that got him thinking about including the ‘Disabled-friendly’ feature in the Zomato App.

I asked a classmate for a disabled-friendly place where I could get Italian food. He told me that a Zomato-like application, Yelp that is popular in the West, had a feature to ascertain if a particular restaurant had ramps and other facilities for disabled persons. So, I thought, why not emulate this in India?
—Nipun Malhotra

Upon his return, Nipun contacted officials at Zomato, who welcomed his suggestions.

Zomato’s Global Content Head, Jayant Chauhan told The Quint that the project will be implemented in six metros within two weeks – in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai.

Activist Nipun Malhotra with Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. (Courtesy: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/nipunmalhotra87?fref=photo">Nipun’s Facebook Page</a>)
Activist Nipun Malhotra with Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. (Courtesy: Nipun’s Facebook Page)

The data collection drive began two days ago. All 50,000 restaurants listed on Zomato are being individually approached for this, though Zomato is also taking help from certain disability-rights groups.

The challenge, however, that Zomato is facing relates to the “subjectivity” of the way disability is defined world over, Chauhan admitted.

It is a broad area and to cover each and every aspect of disability at a go is not possible for a country like India. The subjectivity is so high and there is ambiguity in the definitions of disability, thereby making it tough. As of now, we are focusing on ‘barrier-free’, wheelchair-accessible restaurants.
—Jayant Chauhan, Global Content Head, Zomato

Winds of Change

Nipun Malhotra at Delhi University after donating wheelchairs to the Equal Opportunity Cell. (Courtesy: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/nipunmalhotra87?fref=photo">Nipun’s Facebook Page</a>)
Nipun Malhotra at Delhi University after donating wheelchairs to the Equal Opportunity Cell. (Courtesy: Nipun’s Facebook Page)

Nipun feels the step would go a long way in changing the way restaurants and other public spaces in the country view disability.

Restaurants would not like to be not on that list. When people constantly begin to ask that question, if the restaurant is barrier-free or not, the restaurants would be forced to make a special effort to make their outlets disabled-friendly.
—Nipun Malhotra

Not just Zomato, other organisations too, such as Housing.com and MakeMyShow can emulate the feature too, Nipun added.

If I want to go watch a play, I must know pre-hand if the place is accessible for me or not. It is as much about equal opportunities. If US, UK and other countries can be so disabled-friendly, so can we.
—Nipun Malhotra

What’s Needed

 Nipun Malhotra at a New York restaurant. (Courtesy: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/nipunmalhotra87?fref=photo">Nipun’s Facebook Page</a>)
Nipun Malhotra at a New York restaurant. (Courtesy: Nipun’s Facebook Page)
  • Unsteep ramps
  • Hand railings
  • Appropriate gradients
  • Tactile markings
  • Braille menu
  • Screen readers

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