When I was a kid a friend asked me : “If you could have one superpower, what would it be ?” I think he expected me to say something like flying or being invisible… but I thought about it for a few seconds and answered : “I would like to be able to talk every possible language to be able to talk with anyone without effort.” Although I never got this superpower (too bad 🙁 ), and actually never managed to learn that many languages, there is one I’ve actually put on my bucket  list : the French Sign Language (because to make things easier there are over 200 distinct sign languages in the world). That’s why I was really thrilled to learn about the project I’m presenting today.


Breaking barriers between hearing and hearing impaired communities

Anjan Manikumar, President and founder of Signs restaurant in Toronto

Anjan Manikumar, President and founder of Signs restaurant in Toronto

For most of us, hearing is taken for granted. We can listen to music, ask for directions to a stranger on the street, talk with our colleagues, and order food in a restaurant. But most of these simple things are either impossible or especially difficult for deaf people. And that’s what Anjan Manikumar, a Canadian restaurateur, noticed with one of his regular customer a few years ago. With no tools or education for staff to communicate with his deaf client, ordering food was a game of point, nod and serve. Manikumar sought to change that so he learned American Sign Language (known as ASL). With this knowledge he got more and more involved in the Deaf Community and then had the idea for Signs Restaurant, where the deaf can work and dine using their language. But Signs is more than that. It is also a place for the hearing to learn about the Deaf community and be initiated to ASL.

Signs opened in July 2014 in Toronto. It is a 150-seater upper casual dining & bar restaurant and the first Canadian restaurant that is staffed with deaf servers. And this is a really important part of the project. One of Manikumar main objectives was to provide career opportunities and growth for the Deaf in the hospitality industry. In Canada and worldwide, the unemployment rate of those with “hearing limitations,” a broad category, is way higher than for the general population. In a 1998 survey by the Canadian Association of the Deaf, the group found that 37 per cent of deaf Canadians were unemployed. Little research has been done since on deaf employment but it surely still is a major problem.

Setting out this project was not easy as you can guess, but it proves you can connect two interests into one profitable and socially conscious business. I wish them the best for the years to come. What do you think ? Please comment below.

You can see more about this project on this video. Or you can take a look at their website : www.signsrestaurant.ca




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