EDMONTON -- A local ice cream shop is striving to be more accessible to the Deaf and hard of hearing community by learning American Sign Language.

The store manager of Kind Ice Cream, Izzy Berquist says that since the introduction of masks, that all of her staff had been noticing that they were offering a decreased service to their Deaf or hard of hearing customers, even more than they were prior to the pandemic.

That’s when she got the idea to have the staff take part in a workshop, not only to learn some signs, but to also learn about Deaf culture.

Berquist said that she wanted to reach out to someone who actually was from the Deaf community in order to get some real insight into how the company could make improvements. All Kind Ice Cream employees from the owner, to the kitchen manager, participated in the workshop. 

“The workshop was awesome. Primarily we were discussing culture…we also did basics. We did the alphabet, some numbers and some basic phrases. And that’s just the starting-off point, and then moving forward we’ll be developing a training video with a tonne of vocabulary that’s ice cream specific but also that’s just regular, every day conversation that we might strike up with a customer,” said Berquist.

Amorena Bartlett conducted the ASL workshop for the local ice cream company. 

“I was excited! First of all, a business interested in learning ASL in order to be inclusive is something I wanted to promote. Secondly, who can say no to ice cream?” Bartlett said of the opportunity.

Bartlett said she found it honourable that Kind Ice Cream was not just interested in doing the bare minimum, but also in learning about the Deaf culture and the Deaf community in Edmonton.

In order for the employees to learn as much as possible from the workshop, Bartlett made sure to not only teach basic signs, but to also educate them on the language itself, as well as the importance of conveying meaning and emotions through facial expressions, and how communication is not a one size fits all approach. She wanted them to understand that in order to be a truly inclusive business that they needed to treat it as a constant, on-going learning process. 

“Inclusion is not a one-off thing. I think the staff truly got that through the workshop,” said Bartlett.

The team at Kind plans on furthering their education through the use of a training video where they will continue to learn more signs, including ones that are specific to their business.

“To have such a business like Kind doing this goes a long way and I truly hope for a ripple effect where other businesses will make Edmonton even more inclusive.”