SHANGHAI (XINHUA) – You may not be greeted with smiles or warm words verbally. Instead, after you order a coffee, a bear paw will stick out of a hole in the wall, passing you the coffee and offering a fluffy, friendly pat.
During the weekend, many hearing-impaired residents in Shanghai gathered in front of a small cafe, waiting to shake hands with the paw and enjoy a free cup of coffee without the hassle of verbal communication.
Unlike a regular cafe, the coffee shop known as the Bear Paw Cafe is only a small open window in the cement wall facing Yongkang Road in downtown Shanghai. Customers need to place orders on smartphones, and the barista will deliver the coffee from the window, wearing a bear paw glove.
With two hearing-impaired baristas (not all baristas here are hearing-impaired), the cafe opened on Dec 3, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Promising to provide free coffee for customers with disabilities, the cafe has become a popular destination among people with or without disabilities in the metropolis.
The cafe’s co-founder Wang Haiqing said some people with hearing impairments find it stressful to interact with strangers directly. This became one of the reasons to open the contactless cafe.
The cafe’s staff used to work in different industries, and they all hoped to provide more opportunities for people with disabilities to have a career and blend in with society, she said.
A hearing-impaired young man, who wanted to be known only as Xiaowei, patronised the cafe last Saturday (Dec 5) after hearing about it offering free coffee and job opportunities for people with disabilities.
There, he befriended nine retired women with hearing disabilities, who came all the way from Pudong New Area to support the cafe, after using sign language to help them with the process of placing orders.
“I’m here to show my solidarity with the cafe,” Mr Xiaowei said by typing on his smartphone. “Their business is booming, and I am so happy for them. As people with disabilities, we need to be ‘heard’ by more people.”
The cafe plans to recruit more baristas with disabilities and provide training on coffee-brewing skills for them to give them some actual help, apart from a warm pat of a bear paw.