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By Heather• 24 Aug 2016
I discovered CQ Comfort Hotel up Cuba Street have much much more going on than the deaf dining I went to experience.
The hotel was originally the People's Palace, with a strong community focus. Because of that, and GM Olivier's French background (where you must employ disabled staff at a certain size), he's decided to make the hotel super disability-friendly and lead the way for NZ.
Olivier employs five staff with various disabilities, has nine accessible rooms (more than most hotels), has things like fire alarm vibrating pads beneath the pillow for deaf guests, large letter keyboards, a mobility scooter, and now the deaf dining. As a result, CQ are the first in NZ to be rated by the BE.ACCESSIBLE organisation.
Various community groups test their developments, and they intend to add new accessibility features year on year. It's humbling how much one man and his organisation can achieve by just getting on with it (he had me nearly signed up on the spot to become a blind walker/runner guide).
To the dining then.
All staff did a 20 hour sign language course, and continue to develop and learn from each other. They now conduct all their staff meetings with overheads and visuals, so walk the talk.
The Maitre’d introduces the concept of deaf dining, and checks if you’d like to have a go. Three deaf staff cover the dinner roster, and the menus have all the basic signs. You can also borrow their iPad with a translation app, or just download one to your own phone there and then, which also worked a treat.
You won’t end up with pickled calf livers or offend with wonky signs, as it's all about learning and having some fun. And the deaf staff lip-read, with many of the others very fluent interpreters.
So I introduced myself to the lovely Amber, and chatted about how she likes working at CQ. I suspect I chatted all over the place, but we nevertheless both ended up quite pleased with ourselves, and the upshot - she loves working there and helping people develop their skills..
Then we had to figure how to order drinks.
Trying to sign Cable Car Crush was well beyond me, so I reverted to pointing. However the chip fiend decided to give signing Steinlager a go with the help of his app, which went like this - ‘yeah, nah, that can't be right...’ to ‘aaaaah, turn the hand sideways’, to ‘yay, I’ve got beer!'.
At food ordering time there were more humorous efforts, followed by instruction, eureka moments, and ultimately the correct food.
And while waiting for dinner, Amber had me practice the sign alphabet and then spell my name without looking at the board (thankfully there’s a few repeat letters in Heather - good work mum!).
The food ranges through $12-$14 for small plates, $25-$30 for large plates, and $10-$12 for desserts. While simply presented, the components were flavourful, well cooked, and generous.
And the highlights:
It's truly not scary, so round up the family (the kids are probably learning sign language at school and would enjoy the practice), or get a group together, and go along for some fun.
I guarantee you’ll come away feeling more confident about communicating with the deaf, and with a better perspective on your own niggles and grizzles.
Well done CQ.
The ideal retreat where you can enjoy New Zealand cuisine in the heart of the city.