A heartwarming video showing a blind guest being surprised by a Braille birthday message at a restaurant has gone viral on TikTok.
Natalie Te Paa, the woman featured in the video, told TODAY Food that the London restaurant, Luciano by Gino D’Acampo, did not have any advance notice that she was coming. She and her friend, Claire Sara, stopped into the restaurant after seeing a show together, and Sara informed restaurant employees that it was her birthday.
The video shows Te Paa being presented with a plate that has "happy birthday" written on it in Braille. Her friend guides her hand to the plate, Te Paa starts feeling the raised dots and, after realizing what it reads, exclaims, "No freaking way! They did not!"
The on-screen caption reads, "So take heart despite how broken the world is right now … true kindness still exists."
"Oh my gosh! Are you kidding me?" Te Paa says, laughing. "That is insane. Thank you so much."
The restaurant's general manager, Giovanni Galluccio, told TODAY that they typically use melted chocolate to write birthday messages, but this was the first time a Braille message had been used.
"My mind was blank for a second and then I was like, 'Is this in Braille? I found it hard to string a sentence together," she said. "My mind was just going. I've never had anything happen like that before. It was wild."
Te Paa said she's celebrated her birthday with nice desserts or waitstaff singing her "Happy Birthday" before, but this was the first time a restaurant has accommodated her disability like that. She said she was especially touched by the obvious care that the restaurant staff put into making the message, which included looking up how to write the message in Braille and making sure the chocolate was cold enough so it wouldn't melt when she touched it.
"What really blew me away was that Claire went to use the restroom and (restaurant staff) pulled her aside and were like, 'Hey, we were going to write this in Braille, what do you think, would that be appreciated?' So it was their idea," Te Paa said. "She didn't even set it up, it was their idea, and it just blew me away. I've never, ever had anything like that happen. They just really did go above and beyond."
Since it was shared online on Tuesday, the video has garnered nearly 16 million views. Te Paa said she has been "blown away" by the overwhelmingly positive response.
"The fact that people have responded so much and so well to it just shows how much the world needs kindness right now, how much the world needs a message of hope, needs to see people doing things and going above and beyond for each other," she said.
Galluccio said that the restaurant, which has only been operating for a few weeks, was also shocked to see such an outpouring of support.
"We still can’t believe it, how a little gesture that we would do every day went viral, we can’t believe it. We don’t even know how to react to it," Galluccio said. "Hospitality is about service, about the basics of service, making their day."
Te Paa, a singer, said she hopes the video will lead to a larger conversation about inclusivity and awareness around blindness and accessibility.
"Blindness is not easy. There are a lot of times that you do face discrimination, you do face things that are challenging and tough and difficult," she said. "So the fact that they did that for us really opened up a conversation of awareness. We've had comments from restaurant owners and chefs being like, 'I've never thought of this idea.'
"We need to make it more inclusive for people of all disabilities … Being able to learn how to get on the level of the person you're seeing in front of you. If just one restaurant is inspired to make their service more inclusive, that's all I could ask for."