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Two women sitting across from one another using sign language to communicate.
Photograph: SHVETS production

Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day

This day aims to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about how we can make physical spaces and the digital sphere accessible for all

Adena Maier
Written by
Adena Maier
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According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, nearly four million Australians have a disability. That's almost 20 per cent of our country's population and for context, Melbourne has a population of just over five million. We all have a part to play in ensuring venues, events and the digital sphere are accessible for all, and that's what spurned the advent of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). 

GAAD is celebrated on the third Thursday in May of each year, and its aim is to bring awareness to how someone with a disability may experience web-based content compared to those without a disability. In 2020, WebAIM analysed one million home pages for accessibility and found that 98 per cent of them had at least one accessibility failure in regards to text, images, sounds and structure. 

Here at Time Out, we work to make our content more accessible to those with visual or hearing impairments by adding alternative and descriptive text to multimedia, using descriptive URLs and adding warnings on content that may affect photosensitive individuals. We also aim to champion wheelchair-accessible bars and restaurants and inform readers when an event that we've highlighted may pose accessibility issues. It's always a work in progress, and we welcome suggestions for how we can continue to make our content more accessible. 

Wondering how you can do your part this GAAD? Find a list of local and digital events like accessibility bootcamps, webinars and learning experiences here, spread awareness on GAAD through your platforms or use this guide to ensure that any content that you create is accessible to all.

Looking for wheelchair-accessible bars and restaurants in Melbourne? We've rounded up some of our top picks below. 

  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Fitzroy
  • price 2 of 4

With an everchanging menu written on the wall (although the mussels and nduja have been a mainstay since the start) and one of the best-stocked cellars in the 'hood, Andrew McConnell's Marion is the step-free wine bar you need to add to your list, stat. 

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Ashburton

Garden State Hotel (which has lift accessibility for each level) has a new-kid-on-the-block restaurant serving an Italian dinner party with a twist. Featuring a traditional Italian menu designed by head chef Dylan Evans, mix-matched plates and walls adorned with vintage glass bottles you'd be forgiven if, only for a moment, you thought you were somewhere on the Amalfi Coast.

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  • Restaurants
  • Asian
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4

This buzzing, Asian-inspired diner features a spiral staircase down into their private dining room for exclusive functions, but there is also lift access to the lower level. The main area at street level has a step-free entrance from Flinders Lane, where you can join the perennial queue for a table at this popular spot. Consider an early bird special to take advantage of the fact that they take bookings until 5.30pm.

  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4

Punch Lane’s finest dining experience offers step-free access at street level, but unfortunately no lift access to their mezzanine for functions and events. When booking it’s best to request the lower level so you aren’t seated upstairs. Get ready for fun Southeast Asian dishes with a modern Australian twist, like the Vegemite curry with roti. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Lebanese
  • Fitzroy

Love Lebanese food? Try Isme, Fitzroy's slightly modern fusion restaurant with a casual, dimly-lit atmosphere. Hidden in a small back street, you'll find them serving hummos dip with spicy diced lamb fillet and cheesy, fried filo pastry cigars. Perfect for a date night or a catch up with friends.

 

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Fitzroy

Welcome to Poodle, yet another art-deco inspired venue that’s graced our fair city, where head chef Josh Fry (Marion, Cumulus Inc) takes kitschy dishes and gives them a signature Italian-inspired makeover. Enter through ground level to find intimate booths, doodles by previous guests framed on the wall and a locked and loaded bistro menu. 

 

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Claypots Evening Star
  • Restaurants
  • Australian
  • South Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4

On the corner of the bustling South Melbourne Market you'll find Claypots Evening Star with its seafood-only menu (with the exception of a few vegetarian dishes) handwritten on a blackboard. The availability is based on what the fishmongers in the market have on the day, so it doesn't get fresher than this. Add in some live music – usually jazz – and a seasonal wine list and you've got yourself a great time – all step-free and on one level.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4

Love sushi, an impressive fitout and a dimly lit moody ambience? Kisumé brings the bling. The Flinders Lane restaurant joins the list of the Lucas Group's greats – sans the loud noise and bustling atmosphere. Instead, this intimate and ritzy Japanese sushi bar is a true dining experience, providing dinner and a show as sushi masters put their knife skills on display. With ramp access to the ground level dining room, this may just be your next special occasion spot. 

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Fitzroy
  • price 3 of 4

Located inside a renovated factory, Cutler and Co gives you ample floor space to socialise. A small dining section up the back is elevated by a single step, but everywhere else is smoothly level with Gertrude Street. Low lighting soothes the eyes, while the music is turned up just loud enough to remind you it’s after work hours and you can do whatever you like. If you're feeling fancy, try the chef's selection menu and try some dishes that celebrate some of the season's most exciting ingredients. 

  • Bars
  • Melbourne

On top of serving up elevated versions of pub classics, this bar and restaurant located in the heart of the city is also a feast for the eyes. Four levels surround a central atrium that lets natural light permeate from above, and the interior is fitted with black steel, greenery and an aquarium’s worth of glass that makes you feel like you're in a lush greenhouse. A majority of the venue is wheelchair accessible, and some of the other connected spaces are accessible via the lift. 

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Goz City
  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne

The Turkish word ‘goz’, short for gozleme, refers to a pocket of dough in which toppings are sealed and cooked. Simple enough. Yet the good folks at Goz City in Little Collins Street have managed to modernise the simple little Turkish dish, and in doing so have created a contemporary specialty restaurant – with a step-free entrance – that puts an exciting twist on old Turkish traditions.

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Fitzroy

On the ground level of dining and drinking wonderland 127 Brunswick you’ll find Ichi Ni Nana, one of the few places in Melbourne where you can enjoy an authentic Izakaya dining experience. The menu features a range of fresh and authentic Japanese dishes, from sushi and sashimi to gyoza and tapas share plates.

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Maccaroni Trattoria Italiana
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4

The chefs at this Manchester Lane restaurant are committed to following traditional recipes, so if you've been fancying a visit to Rome but haven't had the time, Maccaroni may be the next best thing. The restaurant has wheelchair accessible seating, and the toilet is accessible via a ramp outside. 

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4

The insides match the elegant outsides. The theme is Art Deco – think curvy chartreuse banquettes, white marble-top tables, slate-coloured concrete, minimalist Scandi furniture. If you're after a wheelchair-accessible spot for breakfast, brunch or lunch, this restaurant has ground-level seating and a lift to get to the second floor. 

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400 Gradi
  • Restaurants
  • Brunswick
  • price 1 of 4

Proper pizza: the arguments about what it is and who does it best rage hard. But here, at Johnny Di Francesco's Lygon Street pizzeria (as well as his shiny outpost at Crown), they're confident they're doing it right and they have the hat tip from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana – Napoli's official pizza police – to prove it. 

 

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Coburg North
  • price 1 of 4

Coburg’s industrial streets are an unlikely location for a fish and chip shop, but loyal crowds flock to Blu for good reason. The huge fitout features ramp access, a large dining in area and a courtyard to enjoy the fresh fried fish armoured in a thick, golden batter. All appetites are catered for, from the humble souvlaki to a luxe supper of cray fish and Moreton bay bugs, so prepare to get your feast on.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Brunswick East
  • price 2 of 4

Bordered by a broad cycling path and abutting a playground, Park Street delivers on its commitment to community-friendly practice. It’s step-free and has comfortable aisles between the rows of tables, plus this friendly inner north establishment has lots of options for indoor and outdoor seating. They’ve ensured their ethical standards extend beyond the delicious Mediterranean food and into the community.

  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4

Maha is a sensory experience, beginning with the automatic door you touch to open and a relaxing atmosphere where you can inhale the rich Middle Eastern aromas. The venue does have a service lift, but be sure to call ahead of time to let the team know. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Fusion
  • Elsternwick
  • price 2 of 4

This leafy canteen holds a special place on the list because not only do they serve up great Thai fusion, but go the extra mile with accessibility built into the restaurant’s $2 million renovation. Bang Bang’s online functions kit even includes a useful map for pre-visit research, detailing the locations of ramp access, accessible toilet, types of seating, and weather protection for this indoor/outdoor crowd-pleaser.

  • Bars

Melbourne’s bar scene is legendary, but wheelchair accessibility isn’t always top of the list of design features for venues situated in cobbled lanes, down narrow or nonexistent footpaths, inside tiny holes-in-the-wall, and hidden up flights of stairs. But when you're after a drink in this city of great booze, these venues are easy to access.

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