India isn’t exactly well known for being accessible to people with disabilities, and Delhi even less so. Despite having over 26 million people with disabilities – roughly 2.2% of the country’s total population – most public spaces in India lack crucial accessibility features. It’s impossible to find an accessible cafe or toilet in Khan Market, one of the most busy areas in the national capital! Even liberal college campuses and multinational workplaces in India are lacking in accessibility. On top of all of this, people with disabilities in India often have to deal with stereotypes, discrimination, and condescending assumptions as to their capabilities – attitudes that often result in difficulties in finding a career and living independently.
Which is why it’s heartening to see Cafe Echoes, in Satya Niketan, New Delhi, actively trying to make a difference by exclusively employing deaf and mute people to run the place. Not only is the cafe providing employment opportunities, it is normalising the presence of people with disabilities as working, everyday members of society – while providing effective, thoughtful tools for communication, and teaching able bodied folks a thing or two about communication as well. And judging by the reviews, the food is great too!