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It’s an exciting time for six students from VCC’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing – Job Readiness program. On May 7, they officially started new jobs as servers at Deafined, a new deaf-dining themed Mediterranean restaurant in Kitsilano where the majority of communication will happen in American Sign Language (ASL).
Deafined owner Moe Alameddine, already known for founding blind-dining themed restaurants in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, is now looking to break down employment barriers for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
According to a 1998 Canadian Association for the Deaf survey, 20.6% of Deaf Canadians are fully employed; 41.9% are under-employed; and 37.5% are unemployed. “As a Deaf person, I have found it challenging to look for a job," says VCC Job Readiness program student Mikaela Sarimento by email. “There is a lot of discrimination out there.”
Through the Job Readiness program, however, Mikaela has already held three jobs in Vancouver since coming to Canada from the Philippines in 2009. When her most recent job ended due to business closure, she found her next opportunity at Deafined.
Along with her VCC instructor Marcia Tanaka and others from the YWCA Metro Vancouver, WorkBC and the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Mikaela even served on the restaurant’s advisory committee, which turned out to be a great learning experience for everyone. “It helped us get ready for this new job, and we helped the restaurant learn what they need to do before opening,” she says.
Carlo Castillo, another VCC Job Readiness program student, already considers himself a “good-natured waiter,” and serving at Deafined will be Carlo’s second job. He says he is especially looking forward to sharing Deaf culture and ASL with the wider population.
In Carlo’s experience, functioning well on a team is as simple as finding the right ways to communicate. “People don’t automatically know how to talk to deaf people like me. I can handle that,” he says. “It’s all about being open to new challenges.”
Mikaela reminds us that, especially for people like her, Carlo, Judy, and the many other servers at Deafined, communication actually has very little to do with hearing. “If we just focus on the talents we have, we’re able to do anything,” she says.
Vancouver is excited for Deafined! Read more stories by local media:
DeaFined Restaurant hopes to build bridges between deaf culture and hearing world – CBC News
Deaf-dining restaurant serves up new concept for Vancouver – The Vancouver Sun
Vancouver's first 'deaf' restaurant, DeaFined, will thrive on sign language - Huffington Post
Vancouver’s first ‘deaf restaurant’ teaches diners to order in sign language - Metro News
VCC’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing – Job Readiness program is designed to help participants explore many types of jobs, make career choices, plan their education and training, develop employment skills and find work.