A cafe in Melbourne run by deaf and hearing impaired staff is helping to break down communication barriers and ready students for the hearing world.
A coffee machine hisses and cutlery clatters against plates, but Tradeblock Cafe is otherwise largely silent. It is not a hushed, stifled type silence; just a gentle afternoon quiet where speech is scarcely heard, if at all.
This is not a "deaf cafe", but it is certainly a comfortable and welcoming space for anyone who is deaf or hearing impaired. The baristas, wait staff and kitchen hands all fall within those categories. At Tradeblock, coffees and a range of meals are ordered via Auslan.
If that sounds like an intimidating prospect, it should not. Staff at the cafe are extremely patient with those learning to communicate via Auslan.An iPad at the counter has an app that clearly explains how to order using sign language, as well as a range of common greetings and expressions.
"With all the modern tablets available, it would have been easy to just have a menu on it where you could directly make your order from," says the cafe's manager, Amanda Joyce.
"That would have defeated the purpose of creating the communication between the hearing person and the deaf person. "The deaf person is constantly having to find ways to communicate in the hearing world, so we just wanted to turn the tables on that."
While it is open to the public, Tradeblock is part of the adjoining Victorian College for the Deaf.