Ford Media Center

Silence is Golden at New Pop-up Café Where Deaf and Hard of-Hearing Diners Sign for Service

Untitled Document

  • Silent café set up to employ, train, and serve people who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Customers order food and drinks using sign language symbols in menu
  • Initiative is one of the winners of the 2017 Ford College Community Challenge

COLOGNE, Germany, April 4, 2017 – Want a coffee? Then draw the letter “C” in the air with the index finger of your right hand, and then twist it towards your mouth twice to the waiter. How about pizza? Hold one palm facing upwards and draw a circle above it with your other hand.

This is how diners order at a new pop-up café initiative that is run by deaf waiters and waitresses. Café Ohne Worte (Café Without Words) offers those who are deaf or hard of hearing a start in the catering industry, an opportunity to connect with the deaf community, and somewhere to eat where they can easily be understood. It is also an opportunity for those without hearing difficulties to better appreciate what living in a world of silence can be like.

The initiative is supported by café owners who make their premises available for the pop-up events and is the brainchild of students from the University of Cologne, in Germany. They were inspired after witnessing first hand the difficulties faced by deaf people trying to order lunch in a regular café. By 2025 it is predicted that around 90 million members of Europe’s aging population will suffer from some kind of hearing impairment. *

“Being deaf can effectively cut you from the rest of society, even when it comes to something as apparently simple as ordering a coffee – or working as a waiter or waitress,” said Frederike Höfermann, a 19-year-old business student, and project manager at Café Ohne Worte. “The pop-up café has proved so popular that we are now looking to extend to further locations in Germany, and then roll out the concept in Europe.”

Café Ohne Worte is among winners of the 2017 Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3), an education program from Ford Motor Company Fund that provides grants to student-lead programs focused on building sustainable communities.

Since launching last year, around 1,000 guests have dined at seven pop-up events, held in four different cafes, and supported by up to five waiting staff each time. Guests are first introduced to their deaf server, with whom they then communicate via sign language. Pointing is allowed – if absolutely necessary.

“This is such an inspiring project to be involved in, both to see the difference that is made to those who are deaf or hard of hearing and the enthusiasm and hard work of the students who support this amazing work,” said Debbie Chennells, manager, Ford Fund, Ford of Europe.

# # #




About Ford Motor Company Fund

Over the past ten years, the Ford Fund, the non-profit branch of Ford Motor Company, has awarded more than $2.6 million in Ford C3 grants to university student teams around the world including the U.K. and Germany, where the program is run in cooperation with the international non-profit organisation Enactus.


About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company is a global automotive and mobility company based in Dearborn, Michigan. With about 201,000 employees and 62 plants worldwide, the company’s core business includes designing, manufacturing, marketing and servicing a full line of Ford cars, trucks and SUVs, as well as Lincoln luxury vehicles. To expand its business model, Ford is aggressively pursuing emerging opportunities with investments in electrification, autonomy and mobility. Ford provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.  For more information regarding Ford and its products and services, please visit


Ford of Europe is responsible for producing, selling and servicing Ford brand vehicles in 50 individual markets and employs approximately 52,000 employees at its wholly owned facilities and approximately 68,000 people when joint ventures and unconsolidated businesses are included. In addition to Ford Motor Credit Company, Ford Europe operations include Ford Customer Service Division and 24 manufacturing facilities (16 wholly owned or consolidated joint venture facilities and 8 unconsolidated joint venture facilities). The first Ford cars were shipped to Europe in 1903 – the same year Ford Motor Company was founded. European production started in 1911.


CO2 Emission