Talking Hands cafe in Hassocks raises deaf awareness

A MARRIED couple who were both born deaf have opened a café where sign language is celebrated.

Caroline Palmer, 50, and her husband John, 51, who live in Hove, opened Talking Hands Café next to Hassocks Station last October.

Since then, they have held events such as quiz nights, where questions are signed and spoken, and a youth club.

Caroline also works as a specialist family support worker at Brighton and Hove City Council and teaches British Sign Language in courses provided at the café.

She said: “It’s an all-inclusive place to meet for anyone who likes coffee, signing or brownies.

“We set it up to break down the barrier between deaf and hearing communities and to give the opportunity to families of deaf and hearing children to meet.

“A lot of deaf people will experience challenges with communication, accessibility, their confidence and a lack of awareness around deafness.”

John, who used to be a café manager in Brighton, said: “We are loving the community, they are such friendly people.

“Some customers will sign what they’d like, whether that’s a coffee, a tea, a sandwich or an English breakfast.

“We get hearing customers coming in and wanting to learn sign language, and they will either join a course or learn from other signers.”

Emma Desbruslais, who lives in Henfield, works as a communication support worker at the café. As a hearing person who is fluent in sign language, Emma acts as an interpreter, manages social media and helps out with phone calls and meetings.

She said: “There are less deaf clubs these days but deaf people still want to hang out together.

“We have a big mix of customers coming in, so it raises awareness of deafness.

“Once a month we have a communication night from 7pm until late, where people who are deaf and those who want to learn sign language can get together, eat food and drink prosecco while signing.

“And every Friday morning we have communication club from 10.30am to 1pm for people who use sign language, or are learning it or are just interested in it.

“We’ve joined up with the Compass Card leisure discount scheme for those with disabilities to help deaf under-25s come here independently.

“It’s quite a big deal for some people to do that all on their own.”

In December, Caroline and John plan to hold a wreath- making workshop at the café.

They are also organising a visit from Wayne Barrow, a television and radio presenter who signs pop songs on YouTube.