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September 21, 2020

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Jobs give deaf staff a warm glow at bakery

The oven’s warm glow and aroma of fresh bread signal the morning rush at Bach’s Bakery in the central Chinese city of Changsha.

But although the baking staff chatter excitedly, you could hear a pin drop.

Bach’s employs mainly hearing-impaired staff, whose banter over trays of pumpkin bread and Danish sausage rolls is done entirely in sign language.

The operation, owned and operated by German national Uwe Brutzer, provides rare work opportunities.

Despite growing awareness of disabled needs, life remains a challenge for China’s hearing impaired, estimated at between 20 and 30 million.

It’s difficult to “make good money and get an education,” said Wan Ting, a 28-year-old employed by Bach’s since 2017 after an unsuccessful stint in advertising design.

“It’s hard (to find work) in other places. You need to know someone to be able to find good work,” added Wan, hearing-impaired since birth and speaking via sign language translated by Brutzer.

The hearing-impaired are often steered into work requiring use of the hands, said the 50-year-old Brutzer, making the bakery a nice fit.

Brutzer and his wife Dorothee came to Changsha in 2002 with a German charity to help hearing-impaired children. He took over the bakery in 2011 and has trained around 20 bakers. Most go on to work in other bakeries, restaurants or hotels.

But aspects of running a business — hiring, working with suppliers, talking to customers — pose major challenges to opening their own bake shops.

“Two of our very experienced bakers (have tried), but they both closed their shops. It was too much hassle for them,” he said.


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