A recent video by the Sign Duo, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gXbWtGAcS8, highlights the discrimination that can occur when businesses are not prepared to handle even the most basic interactions with customers with hearing impairments.
In the video, employees are clearly not trained to serve a deaf customer at their drive-thru window, and respond with poor service, poor treatment. Experiences like this will likely lose customers for life. These problems don’t rest with the employees alone, however. The lack of a business plan for serving deaf customers at the drive-thru, and the lack of training and guidelines for the employees, leaves the employees confused and unprepared, which directly translates to disrespected and dissatisfied customers.
With an annual disposable income of over $8 trillion globally, people with disabilities plus their friends and families are a valuable customer base. And with the speed and stretch of social media, businesses can’t ignore their mistakes. While it would be wonderful if the world treated all people equally, the bottom line is that businesses simply can’t afford to not be inclusive and accessible in today’s world.
Fortunately, there are easy accommodations that businesses can employ and everyone can advocate for to assist customers with hearing impairments, which will minimize frustration while providing great customer service:
- Provide Pen & Paper
Keep writing supplies stocked and close to all customer service areas. These can include pen & paper, dry erase boards, or electronic options such as mobile devices or electronic menus.
- Employ Electronic Options
Mobile devices, electronic menus, relay services, text messaging, and email can all be viable communication options for your business. Electronic options often have the added benefit of supporting people with cognitive disabilities, as well as those who speak other languages. Make sure employees know what phone relay services sound like so they don’t hang up on calls, and that they are aware of video relay services.
- Promote Sign Language
Prepare your employees with basic sign language that pertains to your business. There are free sign language videos available at https://www.skillshare.com/browse/sign-language. Place posters with common signs related to your customers’ needs in employee breakrooms or in customer service areas. If an employee knows ASL, highlight them with a badge, door sign, or something else that is clearly visible to customers so they know they can pursue that option if desired.
- Learn Proper Etiquette
Teach employees proper etiquette for communicating with someone with a hearing impairment. For instance, always face the person while talking, in case they attempt to read lips. If the customer has an interpreter, address the customer with the hearing impairment first and don’t refer to them in the third person. Give extra time to ensure understanding.
- Use Captions
If your business creates videos, be sure to provide captions. Manual captioning is best for accuracy, but auto captioning is far better than nothing. Don’t forget to caption social media videos, such as YouTube and Facebook, as well.
In addition to these excellent ideas, businesses can promote accessibility by using the Ability App. With this app, employees can advertise accessible features of their business and customers with access can show others what is available, highlighting features and service with photos, comments, and ratings.
To learn more about accessibility and the app, visit www.theabilityapp.com.