Make us your home page
Instagram

Deaf business owners overcome obstacles and prejudice

NEW YORK

Soon after customers arrive at Mozzeria for the first time, they notice something's different about the restaurant: Virtually every staffer is deaf.

Owners Russ and Melody Stein also are deaf, and have run their San Francisco restaurant since 2011. They've managed to have a thriving business by overcoming the obstacles deaf people often face when they become business owners, including stereotypes about what deaf people are capable of doing.

"We have the same skills as a hearing individual," Russ Stein says.

Like the Steins, many deaf business owners face challenges that those who can hear may not. They often encounter prejudice. Many don't have the resources they need. And while the Internet has made it possible for them to connect with vendors, bankers, customers and government offices, it's not as accessible as it could be.

For instance, the Small Business Administration started a videophone service this year enabling deaf owners to communicate via sign language with agency employees and making it easier to get help and information about loans and other SBA services. Previously, owners had to use teletype services that were slower and didn't offer the human interaction that video relay does.

But at the same time, few online videos and online seminars designed for small-business owners are captioned or interpreted using American Sign Language.

Better resources are increasingly important because deaf people have the same ambition and ability to be business owners as those who hear, says Tom Baldridge, director of the business administration program at Gallaudet University. There's a growing interest among Gallaudet students in entrepreneurship, matching the increase in business schools across the country.

Gallaudet, which serves deaf and hard-of-hearing people, is giving students experience in running businesses like campus coffee shops. It also has hired a consultant to help the it introduce the idea of business ownership into all its academic subjects.

"A lot is happening right now beyond a few courses in entrepreneurship," Baldridge says.

But when the hearing world comes into contact with deaf business owners, the reactions are mixed.

The Steins have encountered discrimination from people who hear and don't want to make accommodations to help those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The couple has run into resistance when they asked for help at local government offices, including times when they were trying to get permits required for running a restaurant.

"We have had our rough moments," Russ Stein says. "There have been times when I had to ask for interpreters, and I was made fun of; I was looked down upon."

But most vendors adapt to working with the Steins. For instance, Mozzeria's wine vendor has helped them learn more about the restaurant business. As for customers, some seem awkward when they first come in, but they soon relax and enjoy their meals. "They learn to overcome their fear," Melody Stein says.

Deaf business owners overcome obstacles and prejudice 11/25/15 [Last modified: Thursday, November 26, 2015 6:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Toys 'R' Us files for bankruptcy but keeps stores open (w/video)

    Retail

    NEW YORK — Toys 'R' Us, the big box toy retailer struggling with $5 billion in debt and intense online competition, has filed for bankruptcy protection ahead of the key holiday shopping season — and says its stores will remain open for business as usual.

    Shoppers shop in a Toys R Us store on Black Friday in Miami in 2016. Toys R Us, the pioneering big box toy retailer, announced late Monday, Sept. 18, 2017 it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while continuing with normal business operations. [Associated Press]
  2. Trigaux: Waiting for your next pay raise? Keep dreaming, employers hint

    Working Life

    The economy's bouncing back. The stock market keeps hitting new records. And the jobless rate in Florida may soon drop below 4 percent. Surely, these are robust indicators — key signs that an annual raise is just around the corner. Right?

    Who doesn't want a pay raise? Demonstrators have rallied for years in a number of states for a $15 minimum wage. But many workers across a broad pay range are unlikely to see much if any raises this year, a new survey says. [AP Photo/Seth Wenig]
  3. Florida Guard scales down troop strength; Navy sails away from the Keys

    State Roundup

    The Florida National Guard on Monday drew down its activated statewide forces to about 1,200 on-duty troops, mostly in operations focused on relief distribution in the Florida Keys — and the last of a mini-armada of U.S. Navy ships off Key West set sail for home.

    Soldiers from the Florida National Guard's Delta Company, 1st Battallion, 124th Infantry, 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team on Sept. 14. The Federal Emergency Managment Agency has reported that 25-percent of all homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed and 65-percent sustained major damage when they took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma.  [Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images]
  4. LOCALE Market hosting St. Pete job fair for hospitality positions

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — Locale Market / FarmTable Kitchen is hosting a hospitality job fair Tuesday in St. Petersburg. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the LOCALE Market at 179 2nd Ave. North, St. Petersburg. Organizers said they hope to hire about 20 workers with a focus on displaced workers from Hurricane …

    Locale Market is hosting job fair on Tues., Feb. 19. [LARA CERRI | Times] 

  5. So far, 335,000 Irma claims totalling $1.95 billion filed in Florida

    Business

    Times Staff Writer

    As of Sunday afternoon, insurers had received a total of 335,347 claims statewide for insured damage totalling $1.95 billion caused by Hurricane Irma, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation reported Monday based on preliminary figures.

    This shows a damaged mobile home inside Clover Leaf Farms RV Park in Brooksville. So far, insurers have received a total of 335,347 claims statewide for insured damage totalling $1.95 billion caused by Hurricane Irma.
[MEGAN REEVES   |   Times]