AUSTIN (KXAN) — The number of deaf-owned businesses in the country is growing, and Austin is leading the pack.
Convo, a deaf-owned telecommunications provider, reports there are more than 200 deaf-owned businesses in the country, and counting. In the Austin-area, there are 30 deaf-owned businesses.
One of them is Silent Automotive, an auto shop that provides services to both deaf and hearing customers. The owners pride themselves on integrity, honesty and quality of service.
“Sound is caused by vibrations, sound doesn’t come out of its own. So we go to the car and feel the vibrations,” said part-owner, Joel DeChristofaro. “We have to be hands on and find exactly where the sound is coming from. Does take a little more time I assume, but I feel it gives us a clearer picture of what happens with the car.”
Danny Blalock first started the business back in 2008.
“Because of communication. A lot of my [deaf] friends have had bad experiences at auto shops, they felt they were getting ripped off,” said Blalock. “Our goal for our business is to keep growing; we’d like to hire more mechanics, deaf mechanics, to give them opportunity to grow their resume.”
Blalock says the deaf community continues to grow in Austin and is becoming more friendly for the deaf community.
The owners say technology plays a huge role in helping the business run smoothly. When customers call, the conversation is interpreted through videophone.
“Videophone, texting, email, the Internet – the Internet is key for us!” said DeChristofaro. “Without Internet and videophone we probably wouldn’t be owning a business. It would be too hard to communicate.”
DeChristofaro says he’s been around mechanics his whole life, inspired by his grandfather.
“He taught me everything I know,” said DeChristofaro. “The key is honesty and quality of service. If you have that, everything works out great.”
Blalock says the business struggled for the first few years, and they almost shut their doors. But eventually it picked up.
“If I were to open the same business in Houston or Dallas, it may be different, probably more difficult.” said Blalock. “But people here are more deaf-friendly.”
The business hopes to expand in the future, and provide more opportunities for deaf people.
“A lot of times people do not want to hire anybody who is disabled or deaf because of some of the dangers that can happen in a shop,” said Blalock, “Deaf people are always vigilant, always looking at their surroundings.”
They’ve offered internships to students from Texas School for the Deaf, to help them start building resumes.
Convo predicts that the number of deaf-owned businesses in Austin and the rest of the country will increase in the coming years. They say as the deaf community is exposed to more deaf businesses, they’re inspired to start their own.
Deaf-owned businesses in Austin: