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May 4, 2005

Service With a Sign

From: Bristol Herald Courier - Bristol,TN,USA - May 4, 2005

Jim Bailey
May 4, 9:26 PM EDT

The first time Bob and Beverly ever went to a drive-through was the first time they came to BB's Barbeque in Franklin, TN. That was just a few years ago. Drive-through is just one of the otherwise ordinary conveniences not generally available to the deaf.

At BB's, employees understand sign language at the "pig up window" and inside.

Owner Vee Blanton makes it a point to employ some deaf workers, many of whom have never had a job. Before opening the barbecue she was a full-time signing interpreter. "They have a hard time finding jobs and fitting in, communicating with their employer, getting their needs known."

Lenny Chiddister says Vee's commitment is unique. "You can just be yourself, you can speak directly with the boss, you can advance yourself, and learn new things."

Some of Vee's customers got to know her at the United Methodist church where Vee signs on Sunday. There's no reason, she says, why the ministry she provides here shouldn't continue out into the real world for her deaf customers.

"I've had deaf people from Wisconsin and Minnesota say that they never ever got to eat at a drive-through before, never got the opportunity so they just wanted to stop by on their travels."

That commitment to ministry is also for the hearing impaired people she employs. "We hope that we're giving them some life skills that they can take to their next life."

The one thing you won't find at BB's Barbeque is a talk back box to place your order. Here you drive to the window to place your order personally, with a word or a gesture.

© 2005 Media General, Inc.