If you walk into Toronto’s new restaurant, Signs, you’ll think it’s just like any other restaurant in town. But you’ll change your mind soon enough once you’re asked to use American Sign Language (ASL) and sign your order to your deaf waiter or waitress. Yup, you read that correctly. In an effort to help increase job opportunities for the deaf community and provide a learning experience for customers, Signs encourages non-deaf customers to adapt to a deaf environment.
Just yesterday, we came across a Chinese student who was denied entry into college because her disability prevented her from passing a physical exam. Unfortunately, this is just one of the few obstacles that a handicapped individual may face. Recognizing this, Indian Canadian restaurant owner Anjan Manikumar has decided to take action and provide opportunities that may otherwise be unavailable for handicapped communities such as the deaf community.
The restaurant,which opened just last month on July 31, emphasizes its fun and novel methods to order.Not fluent in sign language? Well, don’t worry. The restaurant offers a “cheat book” which contains popular phrases used in restaurants as well as instructions on how to sign menu options. Of course, you can always just point to what you want, but where’s the fun in that?
Anjan Manikumar got the idea while working as a manager at a Boston Pizza in Markham. He served a deaf customer who could only point to what he wanted on the menu.
“I felt he wasn’t getting the service he deserved,” Manikumar told The National. He wasn’t getting the personal touch.”
He decided to learn American Sign Language, much to the delight of his deaf customer who quickly became “a regular.” Manikumar was inspired by the experience and wanted a restaurant that not only encourages non-deaf customers to learn sign language, but also provides job opportunities to the deaf community in a workforce they wouldn’t otherwise be able to work in.
“Providing them an opportunity here is something that they deserve,” said Manikumar. “And they’re very talented, every one of them.”
Luckily, Signs has already hired 50 deaf employees less than a month after its grand opening.
Mehdi Safavi is one of the waiters at Signs who admits this job is his first full-time job. “It’s wonderful. I’m so excited to be here,” he told The National. “It’s a deaf environment where hearing people can come in and experience our world and our culture. It’s amazing.”