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   ASLU:  "Deaf Dining"

Citation:  Landy, K. (2016, May 11). Deaf Dining. ASL University. Retrieved from



By Kristina Landy

Deaf Dining

Most societies have a "Hearing-oriented" structure. Deaf and hard of hearing individuals are faced with the task of navigating this Hearing-oriented societal structure where they often experience discrimination due to communication barriers and lack of education on the part of Hearing people. Such discrimination is especially apparent in the restaurant industry (Carton, & Kleiner, 2001).

The communication barrier makes restaurant dining difficult for Deaf individuals, especially when staff lack training on how to accommodate a Deaf patron. Sometimes Deaf individuals must file law suits in order to create change. For example, in 1993, a Deaf woman filed a law suit against Burger King when she was threatened by a drive-thru employee for handing a note rather than using the intercom system which was inaccessible to her. A settlement was reached, and Burger King implemented accommodations for Deaf patrons in a small number of Burger King locations (Carton et. al, 2001).

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, "requires businesses open to the public to ensure that individuals with a disability have equal access to all that the business has to offer… including… restaurants…" (National Association of the Deaf, 2016). ADA law clearly states that restaurants that discriminate against Deaf patrons, such as in the Burger King example, are violating a federal law and are subject to consequences. Thankfully, many restaurants comply with ADA, and some are even redefining themselves as "Deaf friendly".

The Los Angeles Times reported that a Newport Beach restaurant called PizzaBar is the first restaurant in the country to become certified Deaf friendly by the interpretation and translation services company, "Language People," (Zint, 2015). The restaurant uses table-side electronic tablets for ordering food and has installed a live-feed ASL interpretation service on their tablets to ensure an equitable ordering experience for their Deaf customers. Because so many restaurants now use tablets during the ordering process, they too can install this service to accommodate their Deaf customers.

PizzaBar is far from the first restaurant though to cater to a Deaf clientele. In Toronto, Canada, a restaurant called Signs is staffed entirely by Deaf waiters (Victor, 2014). The restaurant has created a dining experience that allows Deaf patrons full access and gives Hearing patrons not only a unique experience, but an educational one. The concept for the restaurant was created when its owner, a former waiter, noticed the frequent and frustrating communication barrier between Hearing waiters and Deaf customers.

"Signs" is not the only restaurant in the world with a Deaf staff. Mozzeria, opened in 2011 in San Francisco by a Deaf couple, is a pizza restaurant with a staff made up almost entirely by Deaf individuals (Schwartz, 2015). The restaurant serves both Hearing and Deaf communities, and uses an interpreter service for its Hearing customers. Similar to Signs, Mozzeria has created a dining experience that Hearing and Deaf people can enjoy.

Through providing accommodations such as interpretation services, discriminatory acts by restaurant employees will decrease and a bridge between the Hearing and Deaf communities can be created that will benefit both communities. As more Deaf operated restaurants are created (hopefully this will become a trend), the Hearing and Deaf communities have the opportunity to come together in a shared experience that will benefit society as a whole.


Carton, S., Kleiner, B. (2001). Discrimination in the restaurant industry. Equal Opportunity International 20(5/6/7) pp. 128-132. Retrieved from:

National Association of the Deaf. (2016). Americans with Disabilities act. Retrieved from:

Schwartz, A. (2015). Inside San Francisco's Deaf Owned and Operated Pizzeria. Retrieved from:

Victor, A. (2014). World's First Restaurant Staff Entirely by DEAF Waiters Opens… with Sign Language Guides on the Walls to Help Guests Order Their Food. Retrieved from:

Zint, B. (2015). Newport Restaurant to Become Certified Deaf Friendly. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from:


Also see: "Deaf Chefs"


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