This month, Natalie Te Paa got the shock of her life when she went to dine at Luciano by Gino D’Acampo in London, for her birthday. Upon learning that it was Te Paa’s birthday, the restaurant went to great lengths to write a ‘Happy Birthday’ message for her, in braille.
The heart-warming moment was captured on video and went viral on TikTok soon after, with over 16 million views. In the video, Te Paa’s friend guides her hand to the plate, where she starts to feel the raised dots herself. It takes her a moment but when she finally realises what it reads, she exclaims, “No freaking way! They did not!”
Te Paa and her friend, Sara, had not made any prior reservations, they had simply decided to go to this restaurant after watching a show together. Sara happened to casually mention that it was Te Paa’s birthday, and the restaurant staff came up with the idea on their own. The staff looked up how to write “Happy Birthday” in braille, then used melted chocolate to write the message on a plate. They had to make sure that the chocolate was cold enough so that it would not melt or smudge when she felt it.
Though the gesture may seem small to some, to Te Paa, it was about her disability being accommodated for. She was absolutely touched by the obvious extra care and effort that the restaurant staff had put into writing the message for her. In the video, she laughs as she says, “Oh my gosh! Are you kidding me? That is insane. Thank you so much.”
With the overwhelming positive response that the viral video garnered, Te Paa hopes that it will raise the inclusivity and awareness that surrounds blindness and accessibility. Being blind or having any other disability can be so challenging and yet, there is not much awareness and a lack in conversation surrounding these issues. Not only should public awareness be lobbied for, but services should also look into how they can be more disability friendly.
This moving moment between Te Paa and the restaurant staff, acts as a reminder that even the smallest gestures can make the biggest difference in someone’s life.