Myanmar’s first cafe staffed by hearing impaired initiates deaf-friendly environment

A first-ever private eatery run by staff with hearing impairment was opened in Myanmar’s Yangon earlier this month, creating a deaf-friendly environment.

“The Able,” a sign language book cafe, is entirely staffed by six hearing-impaired persons from service staff to chef, to encourage disabled yet differently abled people to work.

“There are some sign language eateries in foreign countries and the idea of opening such an eatery in my country, Myanmar, was sprung from them about three years ago. This book cafe is now opened in collaboration with a mini book store of my friend,” Myo Kyaw Thu, co-founder of “The Able” told Xinhua.

The book cafe is still in its soft opening period, giving staff a test run before officially opening to the public at the end of September.

“We had some financial challenges to get the idea of opening such an eatery off the ground and at first, there were some misunderstandings between staff and us as we had communication barrier. now I’m learning sign language with the help of an experienced teacher and trying to use it in the communication with them,” said Myo Kyaw Thu.

Run by staff in their 20s and 30s, “The Able” encourages customers to interact with the staff using sign language while ordering food, with an aim of enlightening the society about the deaf culture under the tagline “Embracing differences, empowering inclusivity.”

“We need to encourage people with disabilities. They are more able than we thought and recruiting them or bringing them together with better job opportunities could help their living as well as the country’s human resources development,” said the co-founder, adding that all his staff get full share of tips and service charges at the book cafe.

Giving cozy lived-in vibes to diners, “The Able” offers Burmese and Thai traditional fusion cuisines and victuals from Thai fermented fish sauce dipping and vegetables to Burmese coffee.

The eatery’s main chef position was earned by Ye Lwin Oo, a hearing impaired person who has 13 years of culinary skills and kitchen experiences at two local and international hotels before.

“I am pleased to be at ‘The Able’ as it is a place which gathers the same type of people like me and I am proud to be employed at Myanmar’s first ever private sign language eatery,” 33-year-old Ye Lwin Oo told Xinhua, with the help of a sign language interpreter.

His impairment was found out at the age of three when he suffered from a serious illness. He later learnt the sign language at a school.

Encouraging people with impairments like him not to be discouraged, Ye Lwin Oo said with a big smile that his dream is to open a fine dining restaurant and to recruit people with different impairments.

“As I’m quite into sign language, this eatery attracted my attention to come here and I love its quiet atmosphere which let me read or work in peace as well as enjoy the delicacies,” a customer named Moe Pwint Phyu who is working as a freelance consultant, told Xinhua.

According to Myo Kyaw Thu, “The Able” will soon act as the catalyst for some social events including reading events and book donations to local libraries and will expand the business like food delivery and catering services.

“We have a dream of opening restaurants for the rest types of people with disabilities to encourage their abilities,” he added.

There are about 43,000 hearing-impaired people across Myanmar, according to 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census Thematic Report on Disability by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population and the United Nations Population Fund.

Source: Xinhuanet

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