JULLIAH Hofschneider Santos, 21, opened “Sweet Fix” Ice Cream Shop at the Villagomez Building on Tinian on Saturday, Oct. 2.

The young entrepreneur, who is deaf, aspires to be an example for other people with disabilities.

Initially, her goal was to go to Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. Gallaudet “is the only university in the world where students live and learn using American Sign Language (ASL) and English.”

“But sadly,” Santos said, “in my high school senior year I found out that my mom was diagnosed with a rare brain sickness. So, I decided to stay back and help my mom and made a plan B.”

Santos, who communicated with Variety through Facebook Messenger, said she always wanted to be a businessperson.

“I have my own big dreams for the island of Tinian, especially for a place where families can…enjoy and be happy together,” she added.

Santos said she was able to start her small business with the help of the CNMI Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

“Through a program with OVR, I was able to start my small business,” she said.

She runs her small business by communicating with customers through visual props, sign language clips, and notepads.

“At first, I was very nervous because I'm deaf, [so] how would I communicate with my customers effectively? But my parents and I came up with ideas so that communication will not be such a challenge.”

“Through my business, I want to educate and spread awareness about the deaf,” she added.

Communication is always a barrier, Santos said. “It’s hard because this is a hearing world. But I want to prove that deaf people can do anything if you try hard no matter what the obstacles, and keeping at it until you succeed.”

She said accessibility is key for people with disabilities.

“I feel awesome to be a businessperson, and communication with customers is great!” Santos said.

“Customers show me visual props or write on a notepad to place their order. It feels great to interact and some kids are also using the sign language,” she added.

“To be honest I am so happy with the outcome, and how my community has shown their support and patience when placing their orders.

“The kids, most especially, love the visual props. I even see teenagers trying out the sign language alphabet and finger spelling! I'm so happy to see that communication is no longer a barrier!”

Next on Santos’ to-do list: a grand opening for Sweet Fix.

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