Deaf­ness no bar­rier for barista Julz

Central Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - TORIKA TOKALAU-CHANDRA

Barista Julz Russ has a unique way of tak­ing cus­tomers’ cof­fee or­ders.

The 28-year-old from Welling­ton is a man­ager from Cafe Co-Ed, a deaf-friendly cafe and train­ing en­vi­ron­ment in Welling­ton.

Russ was born deaf, the re­sult of a con­di­tion called con­gen­i­tal rubella syn­drome. Af­ter years of speech ther­apy, Russ learnt to speak, per­form sign lan­guage and read lips - which is how she com­mu­ni­cates, with the help of a cochlear im­plant.

This week, she helped launch a cafe called CO-OP on the bal­cony of Fairfax Me­dia’s new Cider Build­ing of­fice on Pon­sonby’s Wil­liamson Ave.

CO-OP is de­signed to help im­prove di­ver­sity in the work­place.

Fairfax NZ man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Si­mon Tong said it was more than just great cof­fee at bar­gain prices and easy ac­cess to caf­feine.

‘‘If we can prove the con­cept over the com­ing days and weeks, then it will be­come a per­ma­nent fea­ture and some­one with a dis­abil­ity, but who is ea­ger and able to make a con­tri­bu­tion to so­ci­ety, will have found a per­ma­nent job,’’ Tong said.

Russ wel­comed the move by Fairfax, say­ing it meant more op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties that oth­er­wise were not avail­able to them.

Russ has worked in the cof­fee in­dus­try for 14 years.

TORIKA TOKALAU-CHANDRA/FAIRFAX NZ

Af­ter years of speech ther­apy, Julz Russ has learnt to speak and can lip read, and use sign lan­guage.

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