People who have disabilities have a whole list of challenges to face in addition to the everyday obstacles that an average person faces. Because of this, victims of disabilities are amongst the most strong and hardworking people out there, however; they seldom get hired for desirable jobs and there is this stigma attached, whether they are autistic, deaf, blind, or handicapped.
Restaurant owner, Anjan Manikumar, decided to change the way disabled people are treated and she hired deaf people to fill all the open spots in her new restaurant and bar, fittingly called, “Signs.”
“Providing them an opportunity here is something they deserve and they are very talented,” said Manikumar. “Everyone who’s on my staff I’m extremely happy with. They are extremely talented.”
Not only does Manikumar hire only deaf employees, but she also requires all patrons to order their meals in American Sign Language. Her reasoning for this is to encourage the customers to learn how to communicate with those who are hearing impaired. There are icons next to every menu and a cheat sheet to help the customer execute the signs needed to order their meal.
When word first spread about the unique concept of Manikumar’s restaurant, critiques were pessimistic about it, but it has proven to be quite successful. In fact, the restaurant was booked with reservations for the first two weeks it was open. The hope is that Signs is a starting point for many more inclusive restaurants where those with disabilities can share their talents with the world.
“This is Canada’s first restaurant staffed with deaf waiters and waitresses,” said Manikumar, who wanted to give diners a whole new experience and give deaf people a chance to shine. “It’s something that they deserve and they’re very talented. I’m very happy to say they are extremely talented, every one of them.”
More than 200 people applied to work at Signs and only 50 made the cut, most of whom don’t have restaurant experience, but a passion to learn.
“It’s given the deaf community an opportunity to work in a workforce that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to work in and it’s opening up a whole new workforce for the deaf community,” said Manager, Rachel Shemuel.
When an interpreter asked Mehdi Safavi how he feels working as a server in his first full-time position, an interpreter helped him respond with the following…
“It’s wonderful, I’m so excited to be here. It’s a deaf environment where hearing people can come in and experience our world and our culture so it’s really amazing. And it’s a challenge for me, but a great challenge.
Signs is located in downtown Toronto and the restaurant’s motto is “where noise meets silence.”
This is a perfect example of bringing inclusion to an environment where people frequent often and it alters our perspective as the deaf people are the norm here and hearing people are the outsiders. Hopefully, others will follow Manikumar’s lead and launch more businesses that cater to those with all different backgrounds.