Ryan Maliszewski is the founder and CEO of Mozzeria Restaurant in Washington, D.C. The streets surrounding Mozzeria are loud and bustling, but when you step inside, it is strangely quiet. The reason is that Ryan is deaf and essentially only hires deaf people to cook, serve and clean this wonderful restaurant. Thus, the public must figure out different ways to communicate with the staff than with words. This is even harder when people are wearing masks because the employees cannot read lips (some can).
“We overall hope that customers leave this restaurant with a new-found perspective, a new experience with communicating with people, knowledge and respect,” said Ryan. “This shows the world that deaf people are capable, and that we can create opportunities like this.” So, there might be a little bit of awkwardness and some struggle, but both staff and customer are more than willing to figure it out. In the end, it always works out. As Ryan says, “We hope to communicate through our food.”
Joe’s Perspective: In 2022, this story should not be so revolutionary, but, at least to me, it is. My guess is that it is more difficult to get a job as a deaf person. My guess is that it is more difficult to interact in society with hearing-people. My guess is that it is easy to marginalize deaf people or stereotype them in a certain way. To my knowledge, I don’t interact with deaf people in my daily life. I can’t even remember the last time that I did knowingly communicate with a deaf person. I guess that’s my loss.
I do remember having two deaf people in a college course I taught. They had interpreters every class and they asked me to look in their direction when I spoke. It took a bit longer for either of them to ask questions, but they were so funny. They told jokes and made fun of us “hearing-people.” After graduation, they got married, so they had a lot of questions during a class entitled, “Marriage and the Family.” I am better for having that unique experience. It forced me to examine any stereotypes I had about deaf people, if I had any. I also hope that you get to have this type of experience, maybe even at this restaurant. I know I will be rooting for the success of Mozzeria.
Your Turn: What lessons do we learn from this story?