People with disabilities find jobs
A video of a food court patron verbally abusing a deaf cleaner has gone viral, raising the issue of the disabled working on the front lines. VERNETTE CHIA (firstname.lastname@example.org) finds out that there are jobs here specifically tailor-made for them
They are asking busy Singaporeans to slow down and hush.
Being the first silent tea "bar" here, Hush TeaBar is a social movement that encourages their guests to reflect on their busy work lives while providing opportunities for them to interact with people who are deaf.
Hush Tea Bar employs people who are deaf, and they are known as tearistas.
They lead their guests through a carefully crafted experience, which is categorised into four zones, where they first select a caffeine-free tea made of flowers, fruit and herbs, and asked to surrender their mobile devices.
Then, in silence, the guests are taught to sign simple phrases, encouraged to use all of their senses to appreciate the tea, and given the time to express their reflections through writing and origami.
The last zone allows the guests to share their experience with each other, which also ensures that they do not feel disoriented when they are done with the session.
Having first-hand experience of what it is like to have a disability, founder Anthea Ong, 47, was inspired to design a concept that allows the deaf employees, who number around 30, to play a pivotal role in the service.
"They have the right to be fully dignified in the workplace," she said.
Born with an eye defect, Ms Ong said she was called names and teased when she was young.
Hush TeaBar started as a social experiment - Hush@Workplace, which was first held with DBS at its Asia Hub in October 2014,was meant for the bank's employees to take a moment away from their stress.
Ms Kim Chong, 38, who has been working with Hush TeaBar since last July, said: "I like working here because the environment is inclusive. No fear of stigma, prejudice, bias or discrimination by participants."
Another employee, Ratmat, 24, who has been working with Hush TeaBar for two years, said: "They get very awkward before the session, but once the session ends, the customers are in different light - glowing brightly."
More importantly, the tearistas have created a community for themselves where they feel comfortable.
"Being deaf in my teenage years, I used to berate myself for not able to speak like others," says Mr Daniel Low, 37, a part-timer.
"It was in the deaf community that I found the courage to accept myself as a deaf person who can do something just like the other people.
"Without Hush TeaBar, no one would know about us and what deafness means to us."
Ms Ong believes that society can only be more inclusive by creating more opportunities for different groups of people to "interact genuinely".
She also hopes that social entrepreneurs can go beyond merely hiring people with disabilities, and place them in the centre of their products and services.
Hush TeaBar is also raising funds to provide the experience to unsung heroes in the community. Visit www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/deaf-brings-tea-and-peace-to-ev... for more information.