News / USA

    Washington Food Market Becomes Hub for Deaf Community

    Washington Food Market Becomes Hub for Deaf Communityi
    X
    October 03, 2013 3:51 PM
    A year-old food market in a Washington, D.C., neighborhood has become a unique hub of shopping and dining for the city's Deaf community. VOA's Michael Lipin reports on the key elements that help to draw many hard of hearing customers to Union Market.
    Washington Food Market Becomes Hub for Deaf Community
    A year-old food market in a Washington, D.C., neighborhood has become a unique hub of shopping and dining for the city's Deaf community.

    One feature that draws many hard of hearing customers to Union Market is the ability to communicate with staff members like Thadeus Suggs. The 23-year-old lunchtime food vendor from Seattle interacts with them easily because he is fluent in American Sign Language.

    Suggs, who also is Deaf, began working at the historic market weeks after it opened in September 2012, following a major renovation.

    Since then, Suggs has been on leave from his undergraduate studies across the street at Gallaudet University - the only university in the world specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students.

    With the help of Gallaudet interpreter Carolyn Ressler, Suggs explained what he likes about his job.

    'Deaf Mecca'

    "One nice thing is it is so close to Gallaudet, which by the way is the 'Deaf Mecca'," he said. "And with that, we are providing services to the Gallaudet community as well as the community at large. I think they benefit from it, as do I."

    Suggs can read lips and interact with people verbally, as well. His boss at the TaKorean store, Ross Mayhood, said that makes him a well-rounded communicator.

    "He is probably the most valuable member of our staff. And he has been a big part of how popular we are with the Gallaudet crew. There are maybe 10 to 15 people that come in every day and specifically just want to deal with him."

    Deaf employees make up about 10 percent of the market's workforce. They also attract regular customers like Cary Barbin, who works at the nearby Gallaudet Clerc National Deaf Education Center.

    "I love the fact that this is a sign language environment," said Barbin. "Many of the employees sign, so I can order my food in American Sign Language, and with that, there is not much of an issue."

    Employment hub

    About 8 million Americans have 'difficulty hearing', according to a 2012 estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau. It defines the term as "experiencing deafness or having difficulty hearing a normal conversation, even when wearing a hearing aid."

    The Washington Metropolitan Area, where Union Market is based, provides those Americans with some of the best job opportunities in the country. The Census Bureau says 64 percent of working-age area residents who are hard of hearing have jobs, versus the national average of 49 percent for working-age people with difficulty hearing.

    Market employee David Uzzell, a recent Gallaudet graduate who is Deaf, said many people in his community also work for the U.S. government.

    "They are very good about hiring Deaf employees in the federal system," said Uzzell. "Educational institutions also predominantly hire Deaf students and graduates."

    Friendly design

    Another attraction of the market for the deaf community is its user-friendly layout.

    Gallaudet planning director Hansel Bauman encouraged the developer to build a 'deaf space' that is sensitive to Deaf people's needs.

    "In terms of visual language, [they want] to be able to see one another and communicate clearly while they are walking," said Bauman. "What that means is, you're not looking at the path forward. So you need a little bit more room, you need to have pathways that are clear of obstructions."

    Union Market has tried to incorporate several aspects of deaf space into its design. There is lots of light, all the vendors are in one big room, and the aisles between them are wider than in a typical store.

    Developer Steve Boyle, managing director of retail real estate company EDENS, said those features also have a broader objective.

    "The market itself really was meant to be an anchor for the community," he said.

    "So whether you can hear or not, whether you are white or black, whether you are old or young, we have always seen Union Market as a special place for all folks in [Washington] D.C. It was not truly designed around deaf design principles, simply because we do not really understand them the way we need to - yet," said Boyle.

    Overcoming barriers

    Alena Francis, another Deaf employee, said dealing with some customers can be challenging.

    "When they find out that I am deaf, it kind of throws them off a little bit. And sometimes people react very harshly and it is kind of hard. They will ignore me and just walk away."

    But hard of hearing worker Emily Stemper said most people she encounters at the market are more understanding, even the staff.

    "The hearing people who work here are all willing to learn sign language," she said. "And even if they do not know much, they still try, or they use the paper and pen method, or even gestures."

    Stemper, a Gallaudet student who is on leave, said that positive attitude toward the Deaf community makes the market unusual among U.S. retailers.

    "You don't really see that outside of D.C. or the Northeast area [of the United States]. So it's really nice," she said.

    Michael Lipin

    Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    Diplomats Hope to Revive Cradle of Civilization After Defeat of IS

    Diplomats from around globe gather at US State Department, discuss how to rebuild minority communities shattered by Islamic State group

    Women Voters Look Past Gender in Assessing Clinton

    She's the first female presidential nominee, but party identification, other factors outweigh gender

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: KatP from: DC
    October 17, 2013 10:07 PM
    Nadine, you do not know what you are saying. Deaf with big D is well known by Deaf as a sign of pride in Deaf culture and use of ASL not oralism. There is no need to explain that to hearing in this article because it is not upon teaching Deaf culture it is about a restaurant that is Deaf friendly...they sign to Deaf customers. It has ZERO to do with political correctness, as a SAD matter of fact, hearing refuse to say deaf/Deaf or HOH (hard of hearing) as they think the medical term of "hearing impaired" sounds more gentle. It in actuality is an oppressive word and pisses off Deaf who sign. "foreign" meaning? If you mean "international" then Deaf around the world get why the D is capitalized.

    As for the peeps in the video, I go to Gally and recognized two Deafies and one terp. :)

    I know the written transcript is supposedly same thing as spoken but....can you turn off sound and watch video AND simultaneously read all that?? NOPE. Neither can Deaf...so...the video being about Deaf-friendly places to eat...is ironically NOT Deaf-friendly to view. Captions do not take long, REAL ones, and to respect the Deaf viewers you should redo it with captions. Just saying...equality man.
    In Response

    by: Michael Lipin from: Washington
    October 18, 2013 1:55 PM
    Kat, the Deaf-friendly video version with English (and translatable) captions can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa591u8SkLY

    by: M from: DC
    October 03, 2013 8:55 PM
    Stephen, the text of the article is the transcript of the video. Not the same as captions, but fyi.

    Nadine, Deaf is often used to refer to those who share certain cultural norms including the use of American Sign Language (ASL).
    In Response

    by: Nadine
    October 04, 2013 3:25 AM
    It would have been appropriate, then, for there to be some explanation of "Deaf vs. deaf" in the article, especially as that would have tied into the theme of DC being a Mecca for Deaf culture/employment. To be honest, though, it doesn't seem right -- it's not consistent with the AP Stylebook, is it (usually used by VOA)? Seems unnecessarily political/PC to capitalize the adjective in this report. I totally understand the argument about there being a deaf sub-culture, mind you. Just doesn't make sense to use Deaf in this article, especially as VOA is traditionally meant for foreign audiences.

    by: Stephen Goforth from: San Diego
    October 03, 2013 4:55 PM
    Captions on the video would be good for your deaf readers--especially since the story is focused on the deaf community.

    Stephen Goforth
    In Response

    by: Michael Lipin from: Washington
    October 04, 2013 1:12 PM
    Stephen, this TV report can now be viewed with English subtitles on the VOA Learning English YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa591u8SkLY

    by: Nadine from: Hawaii
    October 03, 2013 3:15 PM
    I'm just curious: Why is the word "deaf" always capitalized in this article? It makes it seem like someone who is deaf is a citizen of a country named Deaf (e.g. I am American; you are Deaf) or an adherent of a religon named Deaf (e.g. I am a Jew; you are a Deaf").
    I don't see news reports about someone with vision problems saying things like: "Joe Q. Public, a Blind employee, works ..."
    In Response

    by: AJ
    October 04, 2013 9:10 AM
    Actually, I recently found out that some people with Autism do capitalize their identity - because it's their identity, not a diagnosis. The same goes for Deaf people. I dunno if this applies to other disabilities as well but since some Deaf and Autistics (not sure which is the appropriate term) do this, logically others would as well.
    In Response

    by: DCJayhawk45 from: Denver, CO
    October 03, 2013 8:58 PM
    Nadine - because the individuals interviewed and referred to as Deaf self-identify as culturally Deaf. Washington, D.C., has a large number of people who identify as Deaf, including at Gallaudet University, because of the shared experience of deafness and use of American Sign Language. So it is appropriate for a reporter to identify them the way they identify themselves.

    To those who identify as Deaf, it IS a significant, self-defined cultural identification, much like Latino, Jewish (which is not necessarily a religious identification, FYI), or many other forms of shared identity.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora