First bar for the deaf opens in Colom­bia

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

It is not yet dark, but the two girls sit­ting at a ta­ble in a Bo­gota bar flick on the lamp on their wooden ta­ble. It is the sig­nal to the bar­tender that they want a drink, in Colom­bia's first-ever bar for the deaf. The Sin Pal­abras Cafe Sordo-No Words Deaf Cafe-is the first of its kind in the coun­try, Maria Fer­nanda Vane­gas, one of three own­ers, told AFP. It is lo­cated in the trendy Chap­inero neigh­bor­hood of the Colom­bian cap­i­tal, sur­rounded by heavy metal and reg­gae joints.

"Its aim is for us, peo­ple who can hear, to adapt to the deaf, and not the other way round, which is al­ways the case," said Vane­gas. The No Words cafe has large screens play­ing mu­sic videos with the lyrics in sign lan­guage, and a dance floor that pulses with mu­sic to dancers who can­not hear it. The menus are also trans­lated into sign lan­guage and there are games such as Jenga or domi­nos for cus­tomers to play.

Fi­nally able to dance

Vane­gas and her part­ners Cris­tian Melo and Jes­sica Mo­jica all have good hear­ing, but dreamed of open­ing a cafe for the more than 50,000 peo­ple in Bo­gota who do not. Colom­bia has more than 455,000 deaf or hard of hear­ing peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to the last cen­sus car­ried out in 2005. Peo­ple with nor­mal hear­ing also fre­quent the bar, which is as noisy as any other in the cap­i­tal. But the dif­fer­ence is that here, most of the talk­ing is done with hands. "It's the first time I can feel the mu­sic," said Erin Priscila Pinto, a first-time client en­joy­ing a drink with her old friend Carol Aguil­era.

"That makes me re­ally happy be­cause it's the first time I can dance," said the 23-year-old pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dent. All six wait­ers at the bar are deaf too, and even though many of the clients do not know sign lan­guage, they man­age to con­vey their or­ders with ges­tures or by writ­ing them down. The bar also fea­tures small cards show­ing the ba­sics of sign lan­guage for drinkers in­ter­est­ing in ex­pand­ing their reper­toire. "I feel much more at ease with wait­ers who are deaf. Ev­ery­thing is much easier," said Pinto.

Oc­ca­sional 'odi­ous' guests

There is no need to ac­tu­ally speak in the bar. "Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple with nor­mal hear­ing can be a bit tricky at first be­cause we don't un­der­stand them," said waiter Juan Car­los Vil­lamil, 26. "But we get by some­how or other." Some new clients are sur­prised at first, but they end up get­ting the hang of sign lan­guage, he said. The idea for the cafe came to the own­ers when they saw a group of deaf peo­ple hav­ing a cof­fee, and asked them about their so­cial lives. Now they want to open more bars like this across Colom­bia and else­where.

It is not all plain sail­ing how­ever. Some "odi­ous" guests oc­ca­sion­ally take ad­van­tage of the wait­ers' deaf­ness to slip out with­out pay­ing or to smash glasses, said Vane­gas. The bar opened on June 16, and with its ex­hi­bi­tions, story-telling and other cul­tural per­for­mances by hear­ing-im­paired artists, it is al­ready well on its way to be­com­ing one of Bo­gota's more hip wa­ter­ing holes at week­ends. "We want to show the world that deaf peo­ple have tal­ent," said Vane­gas, as Pinto used her smart­phone to record a video to show her mother the bar where peo­ple lis­ten with their eyes and speak with their hands. — AFP

Deaf cus­tomers com­mu­ni­cate through sign lan­guage at the "Sin Pal­abras" (With­out Words) cof­fee bar.

Deaf cus­tomers and the bar­tenders com­mu­ni­cate through sign lan­guage.

Deaf cus­tomers and the waiter com­mu­ni­cate through sign lan­guage at the "Sin Pal­abras" (With­out Words) cof­fee bar.

Deaf cus­tomers dis­cuss the menu through sign lan­guage at the "Sin Pal­abras" (With­out Words) cof­fee bar.

Deaf cus­tomers play a game at the "Sin Pal­abras" (With­out Words) cof­fee bar in Bo­gota. — AFP pho­tos

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