You won't hear them talking. But their Sunday get-togethers in a Capitol Hill Starbucks are full of conversation.
Members of Deaf Chat Coffee -- one of about 100 groups by that name nationwide -- gather to socialize with other people who use sign language. The group is open to deaf and hard-of-hearing people of any age and their families and friends.
Deaf Chat Coffee members in Richardson, Tex., catch up at Starbucks.
(Grant Laird Jr./courtesy Of Deaf Chat Coffee)
"It really is so fun," said Kat Aiple, 35, organizer of the D.C. group, signing her comments through an interpreter. "And it makes my signing useful." That may sound surprising from someone who's been deaf since birth, but Aiple actually has few opportunities to use sign language: At work and other places, where she mostly encounters hearing people, she said, "I tend to write notes" or read lips.
All coffee groups are peer-run with help from Grant Laird Jr., the co-owner and developer of the national group's Web site (www.deafcoffee.com), which offers information on Aiple's group as well as Deaf Chat Coffee groups in Virginia, Maryland and elsewhere. Laird, who is also deaf, named the group and created the site about two years ago. Members are "thrilled to be able to communicate comfortably," said Laird.
Aiple's D.C. group meets the third Sunday of every month at 10:30 a.m. at Starbucks Coffee, 237 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Students of ASL (American Sign Language) are also welcome to come and practice their skills.
-- Samantha Sordyl