Innovation That Matters

Restaurant teaches customers sign language to relay their order to its deaf staff

Nonprofit & Social Cause

Canada's Signs Restaurant wants to help teach ASL to non-deaf customers by printing instructions next to each menu item.

The problem with sign languages is that — although they give those with hearing difficulties a way to express themselves — non-deaf people often don't learn it and therefore can't understand it. While it's not the first of its kind in the world — we've already written about the Atfaluna charity's restaurant in Palestine — Canada's Signs Restaurant is now hoping to get all of its customers to sign by printing ASL instructions next to each menu item.

Owner Anjan Manikumar previously ran a pizzeria business that was frequented by a customer with hearing difficulties, who would have trouble ordering because none of the staff could sign. In order to make things easier, he learned some basic ASL and the next day the customer returned with a group of deaf friends. Inspired, Manikumar set up the Signs Restaurant in order to turn the situation on its head. He's hired a workforce that's made up entirely of deaf workers who often have trouble finding employment, especially in customer-facing roles. Diners who try to order with speech will have their requests fall on — literally — deaf ears. Instead, each dish on the menu comes with printed instructions on how to sign its name. As well as offering a novelty experience for the diner, it also gives them a small bit of sign language knowledge that they might be able to use the next time they speak to a deaf person.

Watch the video below from The National to find out more about the restaurant:

Signs Restaurant helps tackle unemployment rates in the local deaf community while also forcing non-deaf diners to learn some sign language so they can interact with the waiters. Could this work in your neighborhood?



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