National Small Business Week is May 5-11, celebrating small business owners around the country...
More than 70% of deaf Americans have trouble gaining full-time employment, having to rise above obstacles in their careers and face discrimination in their jobs. Lack of promotions and growth in a company, deaf people are pushing employers to become deaf and sign language friendly or beginning to create businesses of their own. Deaf-owned businesses are popping up nationwide; in Maryland alone, there are now more than 75 deaf-owned businesses. Ryan Maliszewski, director of the Gallaudet Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute said that owning a business helps to improve confidence and social skills among deaf people.
We at Hearmore and MaxiAids provide deaf and hearing impaired products to help those with hearing loss achieve their goals and improve their confidence in business, individual ownership and social situations.
Our products such as alerting devices (specialty smoke/CO2 detectors, door-knock and window sensors, communication aids, motion detectors), personal amplified devices (amplified cordless phones, amplified headsets and amplified telephones), and vibrating items like watches and clocks will help add to success in business and around the home.
New Funding for the Deaf business owner
Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) -- a non-profit company known for its telecommunications and video-based interpretation services -- hopes to make significant changes in the deaf community. CSD is the largest Deaf-led social impact organization in the world, and also an all-virtual company. It has launched a second of its first-ever social venture fund for deaf-owned and operated businesses in the U.S. They have secured millions of dollars in investments since it started the social venture fund last year.
Diverse businesses operated by Deaf owners and employees
Mozzeria Italian Pizzeria in the San Francisco Mission neighborhood is getting a lot of attention in the deaf community. Mozzeria began in 2011 by a couple who are both deaf. Melody and Russ Stein met at Gallaudet University for the deaf while studying business. As stated on their website: "Melody's dream was to open and run a restaurant and Russ loves to eat pizza every day." All employees are deaf and trained at Mozzeria, some having their first job ever at the restaurant. There are over 15 deaf employees, and the people who built the restaurant and installed the pizza oven imported from Italy were also deaf, as well as the servers and cooks. The technology they use to take on line orders rely on Video Relay Service (VRF), where deaf and hearing people can communicate easily. Thanks to a social venture fund grant from CSD, the owners are planning on franchising Mozzeria, with their first sight on Austin, TX. They plan to have franchises all over the U.S.
Silent Automotive Repair Shop in Austin, TX began in 2008 and has deaf mechanics that use their hands to feel the vibrations when a car isn't running correctly. Joel Martinez, mechanic and co-owner of Silent Automotive who is hard of hearing explains, “We're able to feel the problem. It’s got to have some type of vibration that makes the noise.” The company started with co-owner Danny Blalock and since accrued a loyal deaf and hearing cliental all across the city. Both Blalock and shop foreman Randy Doane are deaf, yet continue to have built up the business successfully. Besides texting, they rely on a videophone similar to Skype, except with interpreters available if necessary to call clients or vendors. (Austin has become one of the top deaf friendly cities in the U.S., being home to the Texas School for the Deaf.)
Streetcar 82 Brewery located in Hyattsville, Maryland opened in July of 2018 by co-founders Sam Costner, Mark Burke, and Jon Cetrano-- all graduates of D.C.’s Gallaudet University. Their business venture was inspired by a similarity and passion for home-brewed beer. Burke says they had a meeting which successfully 'brewed' at his house, trying out a sampling of beers he and Cetrano had made together — among them a pale ale they’ve since modified and added to their brewery’s revolving menu. This helped to make the conclusion that it was good enough to serve to the beer loving public. "The brewery’s spacious layout and diffused natural light adhere to 'DeafSpace' design principles suited for the sensory and communicative abilities of people who are hard of hearing. This happened 'by happy accident' due to the location and building that we were fortunate to get. We want to be a brewery where the community all comes together and interact, whether they are deaf or hearing, partially or fully deaf and capable of communicating in American Sign Language”
Although Starbucks is not a small business by any means and not individually owned, they have created their first ASL location in the U.S. near the Gallaudet University in Washington DC, hiring partially or fully deaf employees capable of communicating in American Sign Language. The coffee company opened the store in 2018, which it calls itself a Signing Store, hiring as many as 25 people from across the country who know ASL to work and manage the store. The store is using digital displays and notepads, and an ordering console with two-way keyboards for customers and employees to type back and forth. Well established companies like Starbucks are opening the doors to the deaf community for employment, creating a new format for future businesses to do the same.
We are making history,” Howard Rosenblum, chief executive officer of the National Association of the Deaf, said at the store’s opening celebration. “Please lead the way for other corporations and other businesses to open other signing stores and restaurants.” When a business markets to the deaf community, it qualifies as deaf-friendly, providing customers with clear visual information, and trains hearing staff in sign language with policies that encourage hiring and training deaf people. A business professor at Gallaudet University, Baldridge teaches business to Gallaudet students, and how to adopt deaf-friendly practices. He also teaches the students how to open businesses of their own. --Audrey Leonard
MaxiAids provides products to help improve the lives of those who are hearing impaired, are hard of hearing, deaf, suffer from hearing loss, and other products for accessibility and an active lifestyle. Look to MaxiAids for the latest in hearing technology to help support an enhanced quality of life.