Photo cred - Signs

A new kind of restaurant is redefining the dining experience by employing deaf-only staff. SIGNS encourages customers to use sign language to order and communicate with servers  with the aid of easy-to-read graphics, cheat sheets and wall-mounted illustrations demonstrating signs for common words and menu items.

The owner of Signs, Anjan Manikumar, got the inspiration when he used to work as a server and one day had a deaf customer. As he didn’t know sign language at the time, Manikumar felt he wasn’t effectively delivering a personal enough touch. So, he started his own restaurant and is now giving an often isolated workforce a new voice, as it were. SIGNS received hundreds of applicants, many of which had never had a chance to work in the industry prior.

Signs serves up a wildly eclectic menu with everything from French onion grilled cheese, grilled maple soy salmon, and Montego Bay jerk chicken, all prepared by deaf cooks.

While the Toronto-based restaurant is a first of its kind in Canada, it is not an entirely new concept. You may have heard, or maybe even eaten at Montreal’s O’Noir restaurant, where customers are served by vision-impaired and blind staff in total darkness. As someone who has tried this restaurant, I can say it is definitely an eye-opening experience (pun definitely intended). This new movement to give the disabled more employment options while teaching the rest of us a thing or two about disability is absolutely brilliant. So the question is: would you at least try a restaurant concept like this here in Montreal? I know I would.

Feel free to check out the Signs website for a small crash course in ASL (American Sign Language) here, and their Facebook page for the full menu.

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