Cape Town - The first deaf-run coffee shop in South Africa will open at the beginning of next month.
iLoveCoffee will facilitate dialogue, verbally and visually, around the ways hearing and deaf individuals interact.
Customers will be taught simple South African Sign Language (SASL) to place their orders, and are encouraged to engage with the baristas, who range from hard-of-hearing to completely deaf.
“I come from a poor area, so my goal is to work hard and use my skills to become fully employed,” signed 23-year-old Thembelihle Qezu from Gugulethu. He studied hospitality at the National Institute for the Deaf (NID) and will complete a six-month internship at iLoveCoffee in order to attain his certificate.
But iLoveCoffee owner Gary Hopkins hopes Qezu will remain.
“This is an opportunity to break down barriers while training and employing people in a relaxed environment,” he said.
“Our biggest goal is to combat the misconception that deaf means disabled.
“The baristas I’ve hired are determined and hard working, and there’s no way I’m letting Qezu go once his six months are up.”
The shop, located inside X-body Fitness in Claremont, Cape Town, is still being built and needs funding to be completed.
Hopkins is relying on creative fundraising efforts, including Indiegogo and Thundafund pages, social media blasts, and a benefit concert on June 2.
X-Body Fitness owner Simon Swemmer said the reactions he had received from gym trainers, clients and the public were “positive” and “inquisitive”.
“My ultimate dream would be for a deaf individual with a passion for fitness to come in and think, if they can make and sell coffee in a gym, I can train clients in a gym”.
Kaye-Lynn Goddard, 24, is the second of three iLoveCoffee baristas. She also attended NID and worked previously in a restaurant kitchen and an office, but is excited to interact with customers face-to-face.
“I hope we teach the community to understand our ways of living our lives, our language and our culture,” she said. “iLoveCoffee is showing the hearing community that the deaf are employable and addressing the misconception that we can only work behind-the-scenes.”
Goddard is hard-of-hearing, Qezu is completely deaf, and Hopkins can hear fully.
The Cape Argus’ interview with the three went much the way customers will interact.
We spoke to Goddard and Hopkins, while Goddard translated the conversation to Qezu in SASL.
The three also taught the Cape Argus a few rudimentary words and phrases to help the conversation along.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Hopkins, who is in the process of learning sign language himself.
“I’m excited to get better and to open up the shop,” he said, making the signs for “excited” and “coffee”, among others, to Gezu.
Hopkins’s grandmother was deaf, but he said that did not really influence his idea.