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5 ways restaurants can be more deaf-friendly

How restaurants can be deaf friendly
In a recent viral video, a deaf customer at a fast-food restaurant was denied service, after claiming they couldn’t order though the drive-though ordering system.

In the video, which includes a heated discussion between the customer and restaurant employee, the woman is mocked and refused service.

This is not the first time a story like this has made the news, and it got us thinking.  How can restaurants be more deaf-friendly?


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A deaf woman was refused service by a drive-thru employee at a fast-food. (SWIPE LEFT FOR YOUR QUESTION TO BE ANSWERED)

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Nyle DiMarco (@nyledimarco) am

5 Ways restaurants can be more Deaf-friendly

1) Learn sign language

Employees who learn sign can provide a whole new level of communication to their customers. Even just learning the basics, such as “Hi,” “How can I help you?” “Please” and “Thank You” can go a long way.

There are many online resources to learn sign language, or you can find a local community group to learn with others.

Read more: How to learn sign language

2) Have a Pen and Paper on Hand

Many people with hearing loss can communicate orally, but to support the communication, having a pen and paper on hand can be useful!

Accents vary among people of all levels of speech and upbringing, and sometimes it can be difficult for us to understand each other orally. Whether you’re at the drive-though window, or taking orders at a front desk, having a pen and paper on hand, that you can provide your customer, can be an easy way to get a clear message across.

3) Provide Online Ordering

Ordering food is getting easier to do online. Consider providing services though apps, such as UberEats, or upgrading your drive-though system to also allow for mobile orders.

One fast-food restaurant in California, called Starbirds, is one restaurant that now allows consumers the option to dine-in or “drive-though” via their mobile-based delivery service, according to The “Virtual Drive-Though” speeds up the ordering process and helps provide a seamless transition.

4) Hire D/deaf Employees

Hiring employees from a variety of backgrounds and lifestyles only helps support the diversity and empathy of your company. People with hearing loss are great communicators, whether they rely on lip-reading, hearing technology, or sign language. By having a diverse staff, it will help broaden your customer base.

Starbucks is one company that has been particularly deaf-friendly.  The coffee chain has even opened up multiple stores that are staffed by only deaf employees. Some stores have even enabled a drive-through system with a video screen, so they can visually take orders though sign language.


5) Encourage Patience and Respect

Practicing patience and respect, and encouraging it as a value in your company, is the best way to ensure people with hearing loss – or people with any differences – are not discriminated against. Take the time to educate yourself on how other people live, especially for common challenges, such as hearing loss, which affects one in five American adults.

The better we can learn to communicate with each other, the more peaceful world we can live in, (and the more food we can eat!)

Do you have any other tips or best practices for restaurants to be more deaf-friendly? Let us know!

Author Details
The HearingLikeMe editorial team includes Jill Blocker von Bueren and Lisa Goldstein.