DEAF customers at a Colchester café will now be able to sign for their order.

Pete Hope, director of the Pavilion Café, at the Old Heath Recreation Ground, wishes to establish the first commercial eatery in the town where staff can communicate with deaf people using British Sign Language (BSL).

Each Thursday, deaf waitress Jessica White, 21, will man the counter.

The inclusive venture will be evaluated monthly and subject to a successful trial, will continue.

Mr Hope explained how the idea was born from his dealings with another deaf individual, who did not want to be restricted to just deaf groups and events.

He said: "He wanted to be out socialising in the community but when we took him to venues, there wasn't anyone who could communicate with him.

"So when Jess started with us it reinforced the thought that we need to try and do something.

"But it's not exclusively for deaf people, it's for everyone as it's part of the local community."

He added: "We're also hoping to be able to put Jess through her formal BSL qualifications, as well as our other six staff and 18 volunteers.

"Although she's deaf, if she wants to progress to being a translator, for example, she'd need formal qualifications."


The café opened last month after being converted from a former tennis pavilion.

It was funded by developer contributions and is managed by GO4 Enterprises, a not-for-profit group which aims to provide work, training, and support for people not in employment, education or training.

Former mayor Theresa Higgins, who was approached because of her interest in the deaf community, also collaborated with the café to judge a painting competition through Kendall Primary School.

Three winners from a batch of about 14 pictures were chosen.

They are currently on display inside the venue.

Mr Hope added: "It felt good to have Theresa involved and she was very proactive in getting the café up and running, so it seemed like a good marriage."