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  • Lunchtime food vendor Thadeus Suggs has no trouble taking an order from deaf customers

  • at this store in Washington's Union Market.

  • Communication is easy because the 23-year-old cook is fluent in American Sign Language.

  • Suggs, who also is deaf, began working at the market soon after it opened last year.

  • That's when he took a break from studying across the street at Gallaudet University

  • -- the only one in the world designed to accomodate Deaf and hard of hearing students.

  • With the help of Gallaudet interpreter Carolyn Ressler, Suggs explains what he likes about

  • his job.

  • "One nice thing is it's so close to Gallaudet, which by the way is the 'Deaf Mecca.' And

  • with that, we are providing services to the Gallaudet community as well as the community

  • at large."

  • Suggs can read lips and interact with people verbally, as well.

  • His boss at the TaKorean store, Ross Mayhood, says that makes Suggs a well-rounded communicator.

  • "He is probably the most valuable member of our staff. And he has probably been a big

  • part of how popular we are with the Gallaudet crew."

  • Suggs is not alone. Deaf employees make up about 10 percent of the market's workforce.

  • They also attract regular customers like Cary Barbin.

  • "I love the fact that this is a sign language environment. Many of the employees sign, so

  • I can order my food in American Sign Language."

  • Another attraction for the deaf community is the market's user-friendly layout.

  • Gallaudet planning director Hansel Bauman encouraged the developer to build a "deaf

  • space" that is sensitive to deaf people's needs.

  • "In terms of visual language, to be able to see one another and communicate clearly while

  • you're walking. What that means is, you're not looking at the path forward. So you need

  • a little bit more room."

  • "Union Market has tried to incorporate several aspects of deaf space into its design. There's

  • lots of light, all the vendors are in one big room, and the aisles between them are

  • wider than you would find in a typical store."

  • Developer Steve Boyle of EDENS says those features also have a broader objective.

  • "The market itself really was meant to be an anchor for the community. It wasn't truly

  • designed around deaf design principles, simply because we don't really understand them the

  • way we need to -- yet."

  • Alena Francis, another deaf employee, says dealing with some customers can be challenging.

  • "When they find out that I'm deaf, it kind of throws them off a little bit. And sometimes

  • people react very harshly and it's kind of hard. They'll ignore me and just walk away."

  • But Suggs says the market also promotes understanding.

  • "I'm really happy that this was established as a business, because you know once again,

  • it's another place where deaf and hearing people can come together and just kind of

  • hang out and live together."

  • [Suggs] "Enjoy!"

  • [Male customer] "Thanks."

  • Michael Lipin, VOA News, Washington

Lunchtime food vendor Thadeus Suggs has no trouble taking an order from deaf customers

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