New Delhi: Light bulbs, placards, sign language are a few things that set apart Echoes Cafe from others. Echoes is not a regular cafe as it is challenging stereotypes and changing dining experiences for people. Nestled on the bustling street of Hudson Lane near the north campus of Delhi University, is run entirely by persons with disabilities- those who are hearing and speech impaired. Started by three friends in 2015, Echoes is now running in three cities- Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata.
The staff at the Echoes Cafe cannot speak or listen and communicates using graphic boards or sign language. Despite this, the staff communicate with their guests in a seamless manner, serves them, and sends them on their way happy. While talking to NDTV, Shivansh Kanwar, Co-founder, Echoes Cafe said,
I started this cafe in 2015 with two of my friends, Sahib Sarna and Sahil Gulati. We were always motivated and driven towards the food and hospitality business. We wanted to do something in the food industry, and so we decided to quit our jobs and start a restaurant business. We wanted it to be a motivational and inspirational cafe. When we were thinking of different ideas, this was one idea that clicked, that we will work for, and with, the differently-abled community.
According to Mr Kanwar, so far, at many places, most of the roles being given to persons with hearing and speech impairment have been relegated to back-end operations, but Echoes cafe aims to change this. The cafe brings them to the fore and encourages them to interact with customers so that people understand that this too is possible, and they can get more opportunities in other industries as well.
“When we thought of this idea, we thought of incorporating a process for the customers to interact with our employees. So, we made a list of items. Let’s say you come to the restaurant, and want a menu, or water, the bill, a fork, knife, spoon, and so on. So, we made a calendar and kept that at the table. Every time you want something specific, you can just show the card for it. For example, if you want water, the waiter will understand, and take care of your request. Next, we thought of how a customer calls the waiter. You cannot always wave to catch their attention. So, we set up a switch on every table. Every table has a switch and a light bulb. The third consideration was how a customer places an order. So, we have codes for every dish. Pasta is P1, P2, P3, and so on. Shakes would be K1, K2, K3. So, the customer writes the code, P1 for pasta, next to that the quantity, and then presses the switch. The waiter sees the light bulb go on, comes to the table, the customer hands over the note, and finally, the waiter punches in the order, said Mr Kanwar.
He added that the staff knows how to communicate with those who do not know sign language. Mr Kanwar said,
Over a period of time, we saw that a lot of customers have become friends with our waiters. They follow each other on Instagram and share each other’s reels. They create special bonds, giving our customers an experience, beyond just serving food. Visiting Echoes is just like going to any other restaurant. What makes it special though is how the café strives to celebrate the human spirit.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.