By Callum Jones
A NEW café has thrown open its doors in Battery Point, but is already proving to be no ordinary café.
‘café auslan’, which officially opened to the public on 28 May, combines coffee with opening people’s minds to the benefits of sign language.
It will be Tasmania’s first sign language café and will operate differently to “normal” cafes.
“Imagine stepping into the shoes of an Auslan user and experiencing different ways of ordering your coffee, without speech,” café auslan co-owner Rachel Freeman said.
“Our café will be a social space for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
“It’ll also be a safe place for anyone to come in, see what it’s all about, ask questions, and learn a sign or two.”
But Ms Freeman said there was no expectation for customers to order in Auslan.
“There are some far easier ways, but if you wish to communicate in your first language, we’ll work with that,” she said.
“At café auslan, we want to offer work experience, training and employment opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people (as well as those proficient in Auslan), and bridge the language gap between communities.”
Ms Freeman and her business partner, Jane Hodgkinson, have been friends for nine years, worked together for six, and both share a love for coffee.
Ms Hodgkinson is hearing and is fluent in Auslan, which has been a part of her life since childhood.
She studied the language in Melbourne full-time for two years and has spent 25 years working in the deaf community.
The duo said the idea of opening a deaf cafe was something they thought of six years ago after seeing a café open across the road from their work.
“We said, ‘wouldn’t it be incredible if we opened an Auslan café?’” Ms Freeman said.
“We thought it’d provide Auslan students a chance to socialise and immerse themselves in the language.”
Ms Freeman said the whole process of opening the café “wasn’t always easy.”
“There was delay after delay, but we are finally here, and I have to say we’ve learnt to adopt an extraordinary, unreal amount of patience,” she said.
“There’s been an incredible amount of hard yakka, spending day after day at the café, painting and doing other DIY jobs – we’ve become experts at renovating.”
Ms Freeman said she was beyond excited – but also nervous – to see how café auslan would be received.
“But it’s now more overwhelming and exciting since we’ve gone live,” she said.
café auslan is located on Hampton Road in Battery Point.
For more information, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cafeauslan.
Caption: From left, café auslan co-owner Rachel Freeman and customer Amy Blake are excited about opening Tasmania’s first sign language café.