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Deaf And Unemployed:
Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands

By Amanda Morris – npr.org/2019/01/13/673250200/deaf-and-unemployed-taking-matters-into-their-own-hands

Angie Bedoya held up a pair of inside-out jeans to five judges, exposing the different sizes of each pocket. She pushed her phone deep into the left pocket — almost down to the knee — as her business partner, Emely Rodriguez, dramatized in American Sign Language, “Look at these big, glorious pockets!” At Gallaudet University’s recent Bison Tank contest in Washington, D.C. — a college version of the popular TV show Shark Tank — the two students pitched a pocket-tailoring company called “Super Pockets,” in hopes of joining the growing ranks of deaf business owners nationwide. Faced with widespread, chronic unemployment but also improvements in technology that enable better communication, deaf people are creating their own businesses and pushing employers to become more deaf and sign language friendly. Deaf-owned businesses are popping up nationwide — including Mozzeria, a California pizza restaurant; DeafTax.com, which provides tax preparation services in American Sign Language; Starbucks‘ first store run entirely in ASL, and more. These deaf-owned businesses often hire other deaf people, helping to grow a sort of deaf economy. Owning a business also improves confidence and social skills among deaf people, says Ryan Maliszewski, director of the Gallaudet Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute. “Deaf people need to improve their soft skills of leadership, collaboration, confidence and teamwork,” he said. “My goal isn’t just to help them develop a business to make money but really to develop their soft skills.” (Next issue – read about a Starbucks that is run entirely in ASL.)

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