Ofentse Magudulela is a student journalist at Wits Vuvuzela. She captured the Chatter Hands Café coffee shop, located at the Wits Education campus, which exclusively uses sign language in-store in an attempt to educate customers. 

A coffee machine of the Chatter Hands Café,  Photo: Ofentse Magudulela.

The centre for Deaf Studies at the Wits Education campus runs a coffee shop for and by members of the deaf community. The business side of the café is an effort to train and up-skill deaf staff, while on the academic front, provide more equitable learning and research in the field of Deaf education.

A counter inside the coffee shop at the Centre for Deaf Studies. Photo: Ofentse Magudulela

Chatter Hands Café, operates at the centre for Deaf studies, to place an order, one must be able to sign. This is an effort to promote sign language more broadly and bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing community on campus. Upon Wits Vuvuzela’s arrival, the atmosphere was rather calm, quiet and one felt relaxed. All one hears is the sound of the coffee machine and milk frother, when an order is being prepared. 

Coffee shop menu with a guide which illustrates the sign and gestures of specific beverages that individuals may prefer to order. Photo: Ofentse Magudulela

The coffee shop provides a menu with a guide which illustrates the sign and gestures of specific beverages that individuals may prefer to order. Wits Vuvuzela had the opportunity to order a coffee using hand gestures as indicated on the guide. It was both interesting and fascinating to learn and the use of sign language ‘on the go’, at the Chatter Hands café. 

The Chatter Hands Café  sitting area. Photo: Ofentse Magudulela

The Chatter Hands Café offers an outside sitting area that allows for the customers to drink their coffee, creating an environment that allows for individuals to socialise with friends and their peers. 

Vuyani Ntantiso, an employee at the Chatter Hands Café. Photo: Ofentse Magudulela

Vuyani Ntantiso a welcoming employee at the Barista Coffee shopis motivated to serve his customers each day, as he enjoys and appreciates his job at the coffee shop. “The aim is about selling to a lot of students and learning how to use sign language and valuing the language,” says Vuyani.  

A cup coffee being prepared by Vuyani Ntantiso. Photo: Ofentse Magudulela

The coffee shop is a great investment within the Wits University Institution. It encourages and motivates the deaf community, providing them with the knowledge that there are many other opportunities in the world that can allow them to be greater individuals who can achieve anything that they put their mind to.  

With the aim of encouraging the deaf community, management at the coffee shop places up “quotes of the week” for more engagement and attraction, increasing the number of buyers and customer loyalty.  

The coffee shop serves as an example for other institutions (nationally and internationally) to provide and cater to the deaf community.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Chatter Hands Café sugar section. Photo: Ofentse Magudulela