The Deaf

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There are 28 million Americans who suffer some form of hearing loss. In a world where communication is key, it’s difficult for the deaf to find jobs and it can be equally hard to find businesses that cater to their needs. But as Reed Galin reports, there’s one business that does both, and serves up slaw on the side.

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(Locator: Franklin, TN)

The first time Bob and Beverly ever went to a drive-thru was the first time they came to BB’s Barbecue in Franklin, TN. That was just a few years ago. Drive-thru is just one of the otherwise ordinary conveniences not generally available to the deaf.

Customer: (orders through sign language)

But here, employees understand sign language…

Employee: “One barbeque sandwich.”

…at the “pig up window” and inside.  Owner Vee Blanton makes it a point to employ some deaf workers, many of whom have never had a job. Before opening the barbecue she was a full-time signing interpreter.

Vee Blanton / Owner, BB’s Barbecue: “They have a hard time finding jobs and fitting in, communicating with their employer, getting their needs known.”

Lenny Chiddister says Vee’s commitment is unique. 

Lenny Chiddister / Deaf Employee: “You can just be yourself, you can speak directly with the boss, you can advance yourself, and learn new things.”

Some of Vee’s customers got to know her at the United Methodist church where Vee signs on Sunday. There’s no reason, she says, why the ministry she provides here shouldn’t continue out into the real world for her deaf customers…

Vee Blanton: “I’ve had deaf people from Wisconsin and Minnesota say that they never ever got to eat at a drive-through before, never got the opportunity so they just wanted to stop by on their travels.”

…and for her employees.

Vee Blanton: “We hope that we’re giving them some life skills that they can take to their next life.”

There isn’t even a talk back box at BB’s Barbecue drive-through. It’s personal, here. 

(Deaf customer says “Bye.”)


For more information about deaf ministries, contact the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

And to learn more about Vee Blanton’s restaurant, go to: