Wheelchair user praises Harrogate restaurant for buying ramp
The owners of Oliveta, Bukurie and Kole Lleshi, with wheelchair user Nichola Emmerson.

A wheelchair user has praised the owner of Harrogate restaurant Oliveta who personally went out and bought a ramp so she could dine inside.

Now, Nichola Emmerson is calling for other businesses in the town to follow suit in a bid to make eating out more accessible.

Ms Emmerson, who is a campaigner and advocate for disabled access, said she believed any public service should be available to everyone.

She said:

“I’m finding in Harrogate that as much as I love the town, there are an awful lot of businesses that aren’t accessible. I think there are a lot that could be.

“I feel a bit let down by society. I want it to change. The legislation in this country is not good enough for access and there are ways and means of getting around it. So companies get away with not providing access.”

Ms Emmerson, who lives in Harrogate, said she enjoyed going to restaurants, but often ended up being limited to chains, which usually provided access.

A few weeks ago, she spotted Oliveta, on Station Parade, which she saw had steps but decided to call the restaurant to see if there was another entrance.

She said:

“The owner was extremely polite and whilst informing me that he didn’t have wheelchair access, it was something he was working on.

“In the meantime, he suggested that he would put a table and some chairs outside. A great idea I thought, so the following evening, the sun was shining and I met my friend at Oliveta’s. We had a wonderful evening and the food was sublime.”

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Since that evening, Ms Emmerson spent time working with the owner, Kole Lleshi, in an effort to get a ramp, doorbell and signage installed to make it wheelchair accessible.

She said:

“To my absolute delight, Kole has now got a ramp, which he funded himself, following an attempt to get help from the local council and failing.

“I am now able to access the restaurant, which has the most wonderful interior and the icing on the cake is knowing there is also a fully accessible disabled toilet. These adjustments make such a different the lives of disabled people.”

Kole Lleshi, who opened the Mediterranean restaurant with his wife Bukurie, in December 2021, said he had tried to seek support from Harrogate Borough Council, but did not get a response.

He said:

“Nichola will be my customer now forever, so I checked the legislation and it said we could use a safety ramp.

“I found a ramp in Doncaster on a website. So I went with my wife, we bought it. I called Nichola and told her to come back and we tried and it’s working. She came in and that night she was supposed to stay only one hour and stayed for three.”

Ms Emmerson explained that there was a huge potential spending power from the country’s disabled people, known as “the purple pound”. This is thought to contribute around £249 billion annually to the economy.

She said:

“Our money is as valuable as anyone else’s. If we can’t get into services to use it, then it’s not good for the economy.”

“The fact that this has happened is very close to my heart. When I went into the restaurant I just felt free. It has also got a disabled toilet. Quite a lot are full of changing tables and they are an after thought, but this is a nice environment.

“I now want other disabled people to come here to enjoy the food and use the facilities and I want other businesses to follow suit.

“Of course Harrogate is hilly and full of old buildings, but I’m finding that retailers are either not bothered about trying to make what in most cases could be a simple change to their premises. Or they are unaware of the the purple pound and the pieces of equipment that are available.”

The disabled toilet at Oliveta.

Harrogate charity Disability Action Yorkshire offers accessibility audits to help businesses do all they can to be fully accessible.

A spokesman for the charity said for some businesses it was impossible to adapt the premises and make them fully accessible. However, he said there were ways of making them more welcoming for disabled people.

He said:

“For someone to buy their own ramp, that’s absolutely fantastic. Now wheelchair users can go and have a meal there.

“If anybody wants advice on this issue, please contact Disability Action Yorkshire. We can work with businesses to help them operate in a disability-friendly way.”

A spokesman for Harrogate Borough Council commented:

“Under the Equality Act 2010, businesses should ensure they do not discriminate against individuals with a disability. Further guidance, including all statutory requirements for businesses, can be found on the government’s website.

“Any eligible individuals who may need financial support to help adapt their home in order to meet the needs of any disabled children or adults living there can apply for a disabled facilities grant (DFG). Further information is available via our website.”

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