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Inside The Tanzanian Cafe Where The Staff Are All Hearing Impaired

By Parker Diakite

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Inside Neema Café in Tanzania, you will find that the staff, including the waiters, waitresses, and chefs are deaf.

It’s one of the few cafes in the world that allows customers to use sign language to place their orders and to communicate with the staff.

Showcasing Deaf Talent

Founded by Neema Crafts, the café aims to create more employment opportunities for people with disabilities in a country where more than 10 percent of the population is reportedly disabled and being denied employment.

“The main reason for starting the restaurant was to showcase the skills of young deaf people, to demonstrate how easy communication with deaf people can be, and to challenge negative attitudes towards them,” said Neema Crafts in a statement, adding “the restaurant challenges people to communicate in a different way with their waiter or waitress to place their order.”

If you don’t know how to sign, the menus have some basic Kiswahili Sign Language and also provide order sheets for customers to write down their order.

For employees, the cafe has given the deaf community hope. 

“Before coming to work here, I never had any friends. Every job I looked for, employers refused to hire me because I am deaf,” William, one of the waiters told BBC.

Neema Crafts said its goal is to reduce the stigma around disabled workers.

A customer said, “the staff here pay close attention to facial expressions and the customers always get what they order for”.

From locally grown Tanzanian coffee,  lattes, espressos, and a variety of teas, and traditional dishes including,  stiff maize porridge,  tourists can enjoy a range of traditional Swahili and East African Cuisine served at a traditional price.

The café is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 am until 6:30 pm.  WiFi, baby change stations, a conference facility, and a children’s area are amenities that are available.

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