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Deafness no barrier for hotel barista

Coffee bar has sign language chart

Phumzile Mazibuko rises above her challenge to become a barista.
Phumzile Mazibuko rises above her challenge to become a barista.
Image: Vukuzenzele

Phumzile Mazibuko didn’t let her disability become a hurdle to realising her dream. Instead, she let it become an inspiration to others.

Mazibuko, 35, who was born deaf, is a barista at the ANEW Hilton hotel in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, where she's from.

She joined ANEW hotels in 2019 after doing adult education and training courses and a national certificate in IT through eDeaf, which specialises in training and securing employment services for the deaf community.

“I had a bit of experience in wholesale and retail and once I spoke to eDeaf about my ambitions, they connected me with Ciro Training Academy – a coffee academy that trains baristas. I completed my training in three months and was able to secure employment at ANEW,” said Mazibuko.

The mother of two, a daughter and a son who is also deaf, says it is important for South Africans to learn sign language.

She says her colleagues and customers do not see her deafness as a barrier, but instead as a learning opportunity – the coffee bar has even set up a sign language chart so customers can order using sign language.

Marketing and communications manager at eDeaf, Nicky Bezuidenhout, says that even though it might not seem so, there are ample opportunities for deaf people in SA.

“Over 80% of deaf South Africans are unemployed, and we seek to change that alarming statistic. There are many government incentives on offer to sponsor learnerships for deaf people and our role is to ensure the integration is smooth and that there is mutual understanding. All our learners undergo work readiness training which is critical to ensure placements are set up for success,” she said.

Bezuidenhout says there are several schools for the deaf in SA that offer matric.

“EDeaf also offers learnership courses equivalent to a matric.”

The BBBEE level 2 business recently launched a non-profit company called DEAFinition, which provides a range of services and funding opportunities to promote equal access for the deaf community. 

– This article first appeared in GCIS Vuk'uzenzele

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