Sunday, 12 September 2010

Silent Sounds

Moscow is a noisy city, but for some the Russian capital offers only a deafening silence. Like many handicapped people here, the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing are poorly represented. That could be beginning to change as pioneering businessman Andrey Melnikov opens up Moscow’s first bar for the deaf.

Talk about the lack of facilities for people with special needs in Moscow has been going on for a while but there have been few noticeable changes. Now at least they have somewhere to relax, in the newly opened Krause Bar in the south of the city. One of very few places where this, and any other topic, can be widely discussed in sign language.

“Deaf people face difficulties when trying to order anything in regular bars. Our uniqueness is that all Krauze’s staff has been trained to interpret sign language, with additional training in client service,” Melnikov said.

“Speakers have been installed on the dance floor so people with profound deafness can feel the rhythm and those with severe hearing problems are able to hear the music,” he said. “If anyone just pops in he or she will notice no difference from any other bar as the music is exactly the same,” he added.

Although Krause Disco-Bar has only been up and running a few weeks it has become widely known among deaf and hard of hearing people in Moscow and the Moscow region. Besides offering the chance to relax and have fun with friends, Krause Bar is supposed to make up for the lack of employment opportunities for handicapped people.

The bar welcomes all visitors at any time of day and night, except for two days when only the deaf and hard-of-hearing people can get in.

“When we just opened the club, quite a few local people came over to check the new place out and were slightly shocked to find themselves surrounded by people communicating in sign language. So we decided to reserve two days for deaf people only.” Although it might be possible in the future that everyone will be let in all week, he added. “When I myself saw deaf people singing back in 2008 it amazed me so much , which is why we would like everyone to be able to experience it,” he added.

Besides having his own investment company Andrey Melnikov is the head of the trans-regional charity for the handicapped Social Help. Most of the organisation’s clients are hard-of-hearing or deaf and Melnikov seems to have found the best way to respond to their needs.

He has plans to develop a chain of similar establishments. “We plan to open more disco-bars for the deaf in Moscow and Russia in the future.” he said.

Flying the flag for deaf people in Russia makes it easier to reach out to deaf people from other CIS countries as they only use one form of sign language. The two forms of sign language in Britain and the US are mutually unintelligible.

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