Last summer, Washington, D.C.–based Gallaudet University and technology giant Apple announced a new partnership that will help deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind individuals to identify businesses that are “deaf-friendly,” by using the tech company’s Map Guides Project.
According to Apple, Map Guides—available in the Maps app—consists of “editorially curated guides from trusted brands and partners… to help [users] discover great places around the world to eat, shop, and explore.” As new sites and businesses are established, the guides are updated with new recommendations.
Beginning last July, the guides include ratings of D.C. businesses and attractions based on their “deaf friendliness.” According to Forbes, Gallaudet —a prestigious university established especially for deaf and hard of hearing students in 1864—used the following criteria to rate D.C. area businesses:
- Is the location’s customer/audience base geared toward the Deaf Community with ethical consciousness of our language, culture, and community resources?
- Is the site owned and operated by deaf and hard-of-hearing people, or does the site employ deaf and hard-of-hearing people?
- Has the location embraced and found the significance, worth, and value of American Sign Language (and other signed/tactile languages), deaf people, and deaf culture?
- Does the site show consideration and inclusion of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in their workplace, audience, and community?
Wondering how a business and its employees can become “deaf–friendly?” Here’s what business consultants deaffriendly Consulting recommends:
- When interacting with customers, annunciate clearly so that people who are hard of hearing can understand you
- Use body language and facial expression to facilitate communication
- Make sure the lighting in your business office is good so that deaf customers who can speech-read are able to see your lips move
- Maintain good eye contact and don’t turn away when speaking with deaf customers
- If necessary, don’t be afraid to use old-fashioned paper and pen to communicate
- Consider learning ASL (American Sign Language)
- Communicate through email, text or relay instead of telephone
- Budget for sign language interpreters and captioning services
- Ensure that your technology is reliable, up-to-date and does not take the place of human interaction
- When in doubt, ask deaf customers what works best for them
Deaf-friendly practices aren’t only beneficial to deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing customers. They are also good business, says deaffriendly Consulting.
“Committing to being deaf-friendly is the most risk-averse move you could make,” the consulting firm’s website says. “Consider the U.S. demographic ticking clock: More than 1 billion people in the world have a disability, according to the World Bank. Throw in our massive population of aging Baby Boomers, and it’s inevitable that most everyone will live with disability at some point during their lives.
More specifically, says deaffriendly, “of all disability types, the demographic with hearing difficulties encompasses the highest discretionary income by far: $9 billion… The second-highest disability group represents only $3 billion, according to an April 2018 report called “An Undervalued Market: The Purchasing Power of People With Disabilities.