The Coffee Shrub is launching the first-ever inclusive cafe’ in the Maldives, with the aim of creating a space where people of all ability levels feel welcome.
The launching event of the inclusive café will be held this afternoon at 2pm, to be inaugurated by Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Maldives, Akiko Fujii.
The Coffee Shrub is a café that was opened in Male’, Maldives, in March 2020 by three young entrepreneurs. Their goal was to serve specialty coffee and delicious home-made pastries. During its set up and early days, the Coffee Shrub team had the unique opportunity to partner with Team ‘Silent Coffee’, second place winner of Miyaheli 2019, to pilot the concept of a ‘silent café’ at the Coffee Shrub.
Miyaheli is a social innovation camp organized by UNDP annually in collaboration with Ooredoo and other partners. Miyaheli offers young people the opportunity to test innovative ideas and solutions to developmental problems. The winners receive seed funding to implement their winning ideas. At the 2019 Miyaheli, Team “Silent Coffee” proposed to operationalize the ‘silent café’ concept in the Maldives and break the communication barrier between the hearing community and the hearing impaired through the promotion of sign language.
The Coffee Shrub offered the Team “Silent Coffee” to pilot the silent coffee concept at the Coffee Shrub. As part of this collaboration, 3 baristas who are hearing impaired, were trained and given the opportunity to work at the Coffee Shrub for a period of 4 months. The café’s menu has been developed in sign language.
Months of collaboration between the two teams has resulted in the launching of the Coffee Shrub as the first-ever inclusive café in the Maldives. To celebrate the success of the collaboration, The Coffee Shrub will share 30% of sales made on 26th and 27th November 2020 with the Silent Coffee team.
“While working with deaf baristas, our baristas at the café learned sign language,” said Siwa Haleem, a partner at the Coffee Shrub. “We then decided to adopt this as our operating standard, where all our baristas will be trained in sign language and any hearing-impaired person will be able to place an order for food and drinks at the café without any communication barrier. It has been a learning process for all of us, understanding the need to create an environment where persons with disabilities feel welcome and respected.”
“We are very pleased to see the Coffee Shrub adopting the standard that all their baristas can communicate in sign language,” said the lead member of Team ‘Silent Coffee’, Mr. Awwam. “Our aim was to create a warm and friendly social space for the hearing impaired, where we do not feel awkward or disadvantaged or even discriminated against. We hope that more and more people will take an interest in learning sign language and that these standards are mainstreamed in all public places and service areas.”
The Coffee Shrub has offered three baristas of the Silent Coffee team to continue part-time jobs at the café post the collaboration period. Through such continued employment of hearing-impaired persons, the Coffee Shrub strives to raise awareness for deaf culture, sign language, and the challenges faced by hearing-impaired people in participating in society and in having access to basic rights. The Coffee Shrub further wishes to raise awareness of the need for employers in both the private and public sectors to offer training and job opportunities to hearing-impaired people and create an inclusive culture within our community.