Customers learn to sign coffee orders to help deaf baristas’ first shot at a job
As the hearing impaired staff can’t hear the sound of the coffee machine, they use the vibrations to judge when it is ready. (ABC News: Mark Rigby)
One large chai latte with soy milk and an extra shot — now try ordering that with sign language.
That’s the challenge a far north Queensland cafe owner is setting her customers, as she does what she can to give young hearing impaired people their shot in the workforce.
“Most people are pretty good with it,” cafe owner Elsa Lim said.
“They’re happy to give it a go and a few are starting to pick it up really well.”
Ms Lim is learning Australian sign language herself, so she can better communicate with her six hearing impaired staff.
“That gave me the idea to get the customers to do it too,” she said.
“We put some posters up around the cafe and I started teaching regulars the basic orders.
“I think it makes them feel like they’re supporting these guys [the staff] too.”
The part-time disability support worker expects a lot from her staff, and doesn’t make any allowances.
“People are always giving them excuses ‘oh their parents work hard, we need to give them this’ or ‘they don’t have that ability, it’s too much pressure’, well that’s life,” Ms Lim said.
“When you make excuses for people with a disability they don’t get to ever experience their full potential.
“They know that there’s an expectation on them, and when they reach it they know that they can do anything.”
Job brings pride and confidence
For employee Vaikura Maurangi, who was born profoundly deaf and with cerebral palsy, the cafe has done more than boost her confidence.
“Because she can’t hear the sound of the milk frothing Vaikura uses the vibrations of the jug to judge when it’s ready,” Ms Lim said.
Vaikura Maurangi says working in the cafe has built up her physical strength and she is now able to work an eight-hour shift. (ABC News: Mark Rigby)
“It took her a bit, but she’s figured that out herself.
“It’s a lot of time and effort and [teaching them] can be very frustrating, but when they do get it right all of that overrides the hours it takes.”
When Ms Maurangi first started working in the cafe she could only manage a few hours before becoming tired and irritable, because of the way her cerebral palsy affects her limbs.
Now, six months later, she is able to work a full eight-hour shift without complaint.
Matthew Corbett is expanding his skills beyond the coffee machine, preparing meals for the lunchtime rush. (ABC News: Mark Rigby)
She said interacting with customers with Auslan made her feel more valuable as an employee.
“Making coffees makes me feel more confident and so does communicating with hearing people,” Ms Maurangi said.
Her colleague Matthew Corbett, who has also been working in the cafe for about six months, said employment helped him gain his independence.
“I’m learning new skills and I feel proud because I get to earn my own money,” he said.
Staff to make it on their own
While Ms Maurangi and Mr Corbett enjoy working at the cafe, Ms Lim said she would be disappointed if they choose not to move on to another job.
“I want them to leave here after six months or a year and walk into a cafe and say I want that job and be hired fully based on performance,” she said.
“I don’t ever want someone to employ them because of their disability and because they want to do a good thing.
“They’re going to hire them because they’re capable of doing a wonderful job and they’re worth the money.”