It’s my third time at this small, sweet coffee shop along the route between my house and our local Sainsbury’s. It’s so small, in fact, I thought it was just an extension of the nail bar next door and it was only many weeks into my living in Devizes that I realised this coffee shop existed. Even once I ‘discovered’ this place, I was a little hesitant to try it out. Being someone who is quite… particular… about his coffee (and food generally), trying a new place can be a bit of a challenge. I was especially hesitant trying Maddie’s Tea Room when I discovered that it is, in fact, linked to the neighbouring nail bar. Was it a place for a decent cup of coffee or was it just a place to get a quick cup while your sister has her nails done in the next room? As usual, my hesitancy was unwarranted.
From the moment you walk into the place, you know exactly what you’re getting into: a wholesome, community-oriented, adorable little coffee shop that has a disproportionately large menu for the floor space it occupies and, somewhat surprisingly, good coffee. On all three of my visits to Maddie’s, I’ve made different orders—something uncharacteristically adventurous coming from me. I’ve been impressed every time. The coffee’s never burnt; the snacks always good.
I think it goes without saying in this era that independence is something to be fiercely protected. It should be obvious, then, that your experience would be cheapened if you couldn’t engage with the place independently. As a wheelchair-user, this means that my time in a restaurant or coffee shop is often that little bit worse because of easy-to-fix arrangements that make it that little bit more inaccessible; whether it be the table height, the legs the table uses, or the height of the bar when placing your order. Maddie’s Team Room is almost perfect for the manual wheelchair-user. On account of the usual British weather I can forgive a place that has a relatively heavy door but what makes Maddie’s great is the door is no heavier than it needed to be and the staff are quick to give you a hand if they see you struggling.
My ultimate pet hate about coffee shops is the tables. One of my earliest blog posts on The Disability Diaries about how irritating and unintentionally alienating the forked-base table is for wheelchairs. The way the base of the table operates to prevent the chair getting fully under the table and, as a result, rendering the wheelchair-user at permanent risk of dropping food on their trousers—or worse, hot coffee. While Maddie’s haven’t moved to the four-legged table, the bases of their tables are such that a wheelchair can easily fit under the table and not feel like they’re sitting in the middle of the footpaths while Maddie’s continue to benefit from the space-saving advantage of a ‘single-column nightmare.’
The only thing I would say ‘against’ Maddie’s is the space issue. It’s quite a small dining area which might not be the best place for those of you who don’t much like small spaces. At the same time, though, the small space is one of the reasons I like Maddie’s. I like that there’s enough space for a manual wheelchair, several people, and a pram while still offering enough space to not feel too on top of each other. It forces a dialogue to develop between the customers. Given that Devizes is relatively small, the fact that a dialogue is imposed on you it helps to develop the community feel of the coffee shop. Add to that the fact that some of the décor is clearly signposted as to the local shop it came from, Maddie’s Tea Room offers an atmosphere of being central in the local community.
Overall, Maddie’s Tea Room is one of the sweetest coffee shops I’ve come across in England that is accessible for wheelchairs. I’d whole-heartedly recommend it to any wheelchair-user who’s fancying a cup of coffee while avoiding the chain, impersonal feeling of somewhere like Costa.
Maddie’s Team Room has gone from a coffee shop I didn’t know existed to rapidly becoming a regular haunt. I’m impressed.