A Waffle House restaurant shows what’s possible when a workplace celebrates diversity and accommodation.

Deaf people entering the workforce face many hurdles including discriminatory hiring practices and workplaces that won’t accommodate them.

A Waffle House restaurant in Hope Hull, Alabama shows us what’s possible when a workplace celebrates diversity and accommodation.

How One Restaurant Embraced Diversity

Waffle House employees working

Pookie White, who is partially deaf, landed a job at his local Waffle House restaurant in Hope Hull, Alabama as a dishwasher. Not long after he started, he told his manager he’d like to try cooking instead.

Management worried it would be difficult for him and the staff because he wouldn’t be able to hear the orders.

“I wondered how it was going to work,” Waffle House area manager Michael Clements told WSFA.

But they gave him a shot and he’s doing an incredible job.

To bridge the communication gap, White taught his co-workers some sign language and they were happy to learn.

Waitress Jessie Simmons said that sign language was especially important while waitstaff wore masks due to COVID-19.

A Beautiful Example of Teamwork

two Waffle House employees

Clements credits White’s co-workers for helping him succeed. “They could have just not wanted to do that and consequently, he probably would have failed at cooking,” he said.

White and Simmons have gotten their language down so well, they even joke around with each other. He jokes that she is slow sometimes with her hand signals. And when asked why she prefers working with White over other line cooks, Simmons jokes, “I’d rather work with him because he don’t talk back.”

The deaf chef is a hit with customers too. “He has regular customers who come just to see him,” Clements said. “They love the show.”

White likes to give customers a hard time when they’re placing orders and he breaks into the chicken dance when someone orders chicken.

“Pookie is the sweetest soul. He loves to joke with the waitresses, they give each other a hard time and it’s so funny. He knows when we walk through the door exactly what we are getting too,” Chelsea Milstead wrote on WSFA’s Facebook page.

White’s story is a great lesson for business owners and managers. Being more inclusive and accommodating and trusting your team can lead to beautiful things.

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