A café for the differently-abled

- February 22, 2023
| By : Aditya Rai |

Echoes SOS is a café where those who can’t speak or hear serve customers. The initiative has received rave reviews from the visitors who are mostly college-going students

TIMINGS: Echoes SOS café is open from 12 noon till 11 pm

Satya Niketan is known for its marketplace and cafes. Being close to Sri Venkateshwara College means these cafeterias are full of students.

One such café is Echoes SOS.

Started by a group of three Anuj, Anmol and Kshitij in 2015, the café employs differently-abled people to ensure their social upliftment.

These employees can’t speak or hear but are still able to run this place with their skills and hard work.

The place serves different kinds of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food such as burgers, shakes, noodles, pasta, cakes, fries, nachos as well as beverages.

Since those waiting at the table can’t speak or hear, the customers are provided with a notepad and a pen along with the menu for placing orders.

The menu is also different from the regular menu. It has a different code for every food item. While ordering food, the customers have to write the code of the food they want to order along with the quantity and any kind of customisation they prefer.

WHAT’S ON: Menu of the Echoes SOS café in Satya Niketan comprises food

If a customer requires something more or needs some help, then there is also a way to communicate with the staff. Every table is provided with a light-bulb and a switch. To communicate with the staff, a customer has to switch on the light-bulb so to attract the attention of the waiting staff. The customer can then communicate with the staff via writing or with placards that are placed on each table. Customers can also communicate through sign language, hand gestures and facial expressions.

Anmol Sabharwal, one of the owners, said, “We wanted to do something for the specially-abled and wanted these people to get equal opportunity in the society. Therefore, we came up with the idea of Echoes Café in 2015. We had five branches before Covid. Most of the staff were taken from ‘The Deaf Society’ in Noida Sector 117, where they used to live. This is a new concept and idea, which we wanted to pass on to people as a message so that their inclusion in our society can take place. We are opening soon in Rishikesh too.”

The staff at the café in Satya Niketan comprises 10 members.

“We have five specially-abled people as waiting staff and have also hired one specially-abled staff in the kitchen. We want that the specially-abled staff should not be confined to waiting at the table. We are training [one of] them to become a cook so that he is able to work at the back-end too and create things on his own,” adds Sabharwal.

The differently-abled staff undergoes training before being hired.

“We teach them a lot of stuff such as how to greet people, how to take orders or how to prepare things for the café. We are also training them to go a level above and cook food for the customers. That would be a great achievement for not just them but us too. Our motivation is the same motivation the staff has for its work. We want to expand a lot and are taking initiatives to do so. We are also always trying to come up with new ideas which we can include in the café. The best part about the café is that it is [like] a family and a friendly café and the staff remembers you even if they have seen you only once.”

The customers return happy.

COMMUNICATE: The customers are encouraged to switch on light-bulbs to
attract attention of waiting staff

M. Chaudhary, a visitor from east Delhi, said, “We got to know about this place through Instagram. The place has quite an astonishing ambience. The quality of food is top-class and is affordable. The staff is also really very humble and the service is really good. The best part about the café is that it provides encouragement to the differently-abled section of the society.”

Her friend Ayush Chaudhary concurred.

Tanuja Yadav, who studies at the Maitri College of Delhi University and lives in Faridabad came to the café with her college-mate Paridhi Verma from Gurugram.

“We came to know about this café from social media only. The concept was very unique and catchy. Therefore, it attracted us. The staff was really polite and it is a great initiative to help the differently-abled community so that they can go a step further,” said Tanuja.

Dilson, 27, who hails from Faridabad and was there with friend Sonu, a 19-year-old from Saket, added, “We got to know about this café from our friends. The staff dealt with us nicely and was really very polite. The infrastructure of the café is quite spectacular. We think that it is a great initiative for the specially-abled people and it would motivate them.”

Aditya, who resides in Rajouri Garden, also had positive things to say about Echoes.

“I got to know about the café from my friends. Therefore, I was curious to visit it. The service and the quality of food was on point and the ambience of the café was also quite pleasant,” he added.

Unlike Aditya, Jobin Thomas of Don Bosco Institute of Technology learnt about the café from YouTube.

“This was the first time I visited the café with my friends. I had got the idea of this café from YouTube shorts. Since then, I had wanted to visit this café with my friends. The quality of food was very good. I think it is a good initiative for the differently-abled people. I really liked the ambience of the café. The café has paintings of the form of each and every alphabet used in hand gestures. It is really catchy in appearance and the food was worth the money. I’ll surely come once again. The staff was really polite too,” said Thomas.

Ubeed, 30, who is one of the employees, has been working in the café since the past month.

“I live in Laxmi Nagar, I got to know about the café through public only. I thought it was an opportunity for me to showcase my skills and be as capable as the other people. They provide me with a salary too with which I am able to fulfil my basic needs. I feel good about my work. And I am really proud of what I do and I try to do it with full enthusiasm. I am passionate about my work and do everything with my fullest abilities,” he said.

The café is open from 12 noon to 11 pm at night and operates on all seven days of the week. The nearest metro station from the café is South Campus Metro Station on the Pink Line.