The Hearing and Speech Agency Partners with Local Restaurants to Provide Inclusive Dining Experience for Hard of Hearing Individuals

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La Cuchara staff receiving training in preparation of Restaurant Week

The goal of this initiative is to empower restaurants to create a more inclusive experience for hard of hearing guests, without modifying the unique setting and personality of the restaurant.

The Hearing and Speech Agency (HASA) of Baltimore is proud to launch its “Hearing Hospitality” initiative in partnership with La Cuchara, ahead of Baltimore Restaurant Week (January 12-21). The initiative aims to create comfortable, inclusive dining experiences for individuals who are hard of hearing.

The restaurant environment presents several communication challenges for individuals with affected hearing, including competing background noises, loud music, and poor lighting. These factors can make it difficult for individuals with hearing loss to interact with restaurant staff and other guests.

“Hearing Hospitality” is an education and training program designed to help restaurant managers, hosts, servers and kitchen staff accommodate guests who are hard of hearing. HASA will conduct training workshops at participating restaurants to educate staff on the challenges individuals face and share practical service tips for creating an inclusive dining experience.

“There’s a misconception that accommodating individuals who are hard of hearing means completely altering the restaurant atmosphere—eliminating background noise, turning the lights all the way up and turning the music down,” says Erin Stauder, executive director of the Hearing and Speech Agency. “The goal of this initiative is to empower restaurants to create a more inclusive experience for hard of hearing guests, without modifying the unique setting and personality of the restaurant.”

La Cuchara is the first restaurant to pilot HASA’s “Hearing Hospitality” program. The Basque restaurant in Woodberry hopes to inspire other restaurants across Greater Baltimore to consider how they can create a more accessible dining experience.

“We are committed to creating a warm, inviting environment where all guests feel valued and free to enjoy themselves over a good meal and good conversation,” says La Cuchara owner Ben Lefenfeld. “Historically, individuals who struggle to hear have been overlooked by the restaurant industry. When HASA approached us about this issue, we were excited to educate ourselves and partner together to better serve this community.”

HASA will be expanding the initiative to include Annapolis and Washington, D.C. Restaurants interested in booking a “Hearing Hospitality” workshop can contact Lauren Albers, communications and community engagement manager with HASA, at or (410) 318-6780 ext. 232.

One of Baltimore’s oldest nonprofit organizations, The Hearing and Speech Agency’s (HASA) mission is to support prevention, treatment and advocacy initiatives related to communication. Services include hearing aids, hearing health programs, speech-language evaluation and therapy, special education, school-related language and literacy programs, interpreting, and sign language classes. For more information, please visit or call (410) 318-6780.

Inspired by the Basque region of Northern Spain and Southern France, La Cuchara offers Asador (wood-oven grill)-prepared dishes and pintxos (small, two-bite snacks). The menu changes daily based on the freshest produce and provisions available and is complemented with creative craft-cocktails and house-baked bread. La Cuchara is located in the Meadow Mill building in historic Woodberry at 3600 Clipper Mill Road, Baltimore, MD, next to the Woodberry light rail stop. For more information, menus or to make a reservation visit or call (443) 708-3838.

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