Abby Sienko shares some useful tips for Deaf/HOH customer service. [Background, yellow wall, Abby with brown hair off face, black glasses]




Hi, my name is Abby. Today, I want to discuss about customer service. When us Deaf/HOH go out to the store, restaurant, cafe, sometimes the service is not good. So just recently I went to a fast food place. I was standing in like and then it was my turn. I order food via Notes on my phone. The typical response is the cashier speak to me expecting me to understand. Nope, I’m deaf. They continue to speak. I gesture paper and pen. They took the receipt paper and wrote done and showed me – with annoyance. I pointed to what I wanted. They were opening the cashier when a second person comes on by, the first person leaves. I kindly gave them the amount.

Typically people give change back by putting in the person’s hand, or on the tray. For me? I get the cash thrown at me and it was all over the counter. …Okay? I collected the bill and coins, put the money in my pocket, took the tray and left. But really, that’s service was not really good. I understand it was maybe the cashier was not knowing what to do, confused. I understand that fine, but still, at least have a little patience? Most of us Deaf/HOH people are fairly patience when we go out and try to engage in conversation with someone. Really patience. I am myself patient. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone new who has no idea what to do, especially when communicating with deaf. But to have a bad attitude or behaviour – it’s not right.

If you have to facilitate good communication and service here are some tips. Most Deaf/HOH people will use phone, most of us prefer not to speak or don’t. Lipreading especially in a busy environment is a challenge. We prefer to text on the phone. Write back and forth, gesture, point. Most time when we show our phone or paper with written order… Please provide a response back by writing, not speaking. Some Deaf/HOH people do have residual hearing but it’s hard to figure out what one is saying. If you want to get the process going faster, writing back and forth is easier. It will be less of a struggle for us and for you as well. If gesturing, look at what we’re saying. Most of the gestures are fairly universal and most are understood. Example: Cup, tray, water, that drink or something. If we say yes we will smile or nod our head or shake for no to show our response. If pointing look and see where we’re pointing.

I understand your perspective is different but have patience. Don’t get mad or annoyed because it’s not going right or smoothly. If point, look to where we are and ask if that’s the right one or not, we will respond with yes or no. Even have a menu ready there on the counter so we can flip through and then point out what we want. Or, even learn a few signs such as Thank you, please, good, food, drink… whatever your restaurant or store has. Such as drink, water, pop/soda, hamburger, french fries – whatever it is. The few signs will make us happy and it will also provide you with more service and people coming in. As we do tend to tell other Deaf/HOH people about the places we go who provide good service. The more customers come, the more business you’ll get if you provide good service. So yeah, these are just a few tips to provide good access and services for deaf/hoh individuals.

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