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4 local restaurants recognized for accessible dining environment


Milligan College occupational therapy student Natasha Yeary (left) presents a 2013 Milligan College Occupational Therapy Accessible Dining Award to Sara Meredith, a manager at the Elizabethton Applebee’s.

MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. (May 7, 2013) — Students in Milligan College’s master of science in occupational therapy (MSOT) program recognized four local restaurants this week for their efforts to create accessible and welcoming experiences for customers with disabilities.

The 2013 recipients of the Accessible Dining Award (ADA) presented by Milligan’s MSOT program include Applebee’s in Elizabethton and Johnson City eateries Buffalo Wild Wings, Fatz and IHOP. Each restaurant received a framed certificate to display in the restaurant.

“We were looking for restaurants that did not just offer physical accessibility, but also those that provide a welcoming environment for customers,” said Natasha Yeary, a second-year OT student and coordinator of the ADA project.

To select the honorees, occupational therapy students visited 20 local restaurants, taking with them a fellow student in a wheelchair or friends who have disabilities.

They considered many factors when rating the restaurants ― ranging from the layout of the restaurant and accessibility of the restrooms to the way the disabled guest was treated by the restaurant staff, explained Dr. Jil Smith, associate professor of occupational therapy at Milligan.

“This project was helpful to us as OT students because it allowed us to see through the eyes of someone who is disabled,” Yeary said. “And it’s helpful to the restaurants because they can learn ways they can better serve customers who have disabilities.”

This is the second year Milligan’s OT students have presented this award and the second year that Applebee’s, Fatz and IHOP were among the winners. Now an annual tradition, the ADA program was started by MSOT graduate Kori Hunter while she was a student at Milligan.

“For many people with disabilities, living day to day is a struggle,” Hunter said. “The world is not designed for wheelchairs and other assistive devices; it is designed for ‘the majority.’ As occupational therapists, we must advocate for our clients not just in our particular settings, but in other settings, as well.

“We must not be afraid to find ways to enhance the quality of life for those in our community and be willing to serve the underserved.”

For more information about Milligan’s MSOT program, visit www.milligan.edu.


MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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