News from LIFE Inc

MOZZERIA PIZZA HAS ALL-DEAF STAFF

mozzeriaIn 2011, pizza enthusiasts Melody and Russ Stein opened San Francisco’s first and only deaf-owned and deaf-staffed restaurant. “Being Deaf, I thought it was a far-fetched dream, but thanks to a change of attitudes and laws, I felt I had the chance. We knew we could deal with businesses and government with more confidence and insist on our rights when needed” said owner Melody Stein.

Even when 95% of their customers are hearing, they hire works who j are all deaf. That way they extend opportunities to Deaf people who otherwise face obstacles in getting job training or employment. This included their preparations for opening. They looked first to deaf artisans or laborers to fill their needs, using deaf wood refinishers and deaf electricians and HVAC professionals.

It wasn’t easy at first. Take phones – not the most accessible tool for the deaf. In the early days they missed half of their calls because the technology wasn’t quite there. But online reservation sites, deaf-friendly technology like LED phone signals help. They use a video relay service using a sign language interpreter, a groundbreaking system that Russell Stein helped develop in his South Dakota career. This only has a mild delay and works great and allows Mozzeria to bring in more customers than ever.

Beyond the restaurant being an endearing family effort, it’s already become a beacon for the Bay Area’s close-knit deaf community. For those interested in how they did it, Melody has chronicled the entire process from the chimney installation to the health inspection on her blog at mozzeria.com.

Communication is not a problem, period,” said line cook Franklin Grammer, who believes the universal language of restaurant kitchens trumps any potential hurdles. “With the dishwashers, you can look into each other’s eyes and know.”

That attitude extends to the entire restaurant. The goal is simply to be a great restaurant that all people – hearing and deaf – can enjoy.

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