MY PARENTS ARE deaf, but I’m not. To shop for
furniture, pick up groceries and do other daily
errands, I’d often go along to interpret in case
communication got difficult. There are more
than ;;; million people who, like my parents, are
deaf or have hearing loss, but many small businesses are not sure how to best serve this community. The following simple tips, which should be
shared and discussed with all employees, can
help deliver successful interactions with deaf
and hard-of-hearing (HOH) customers.
Patience and respect. You often won’t notice
someone is deaf until communication begins.
Don’t be surprised if a customer sounds different or presents a new way of communicating.
Give them your full attention and time to express themselves.
Clear communication. Always face the person
you’re talking to, and make sure they are looking
at you before you begin speaking. Articulate and
slow down, but not too much. Half-speed is a good
rule of thumb, and everyone understands simple
gestures like pointing, thumbs-ups, etc. Want to
go the extra mile? Learn a few basic signs.
Phone calls. Deaf and HOH people often use
on-call video interpreting services, where the
deaf person signs with the interpreter, who then
speaks. If an interpreter calls your business on
behalf of a deaf person, realize there may be lags
in timing, but you should otherwise carry on the
conversation as you would with any customer.
Longer interactions. Need to exchange complex information? Having a notepad and pen
handy can be helpful. Also, be open to trying new
technologies that transcribe and interpret for
deaf and HOH people.
Communication is a two-way effort, and
following these basic tips will help you and your
employees stand out and become more inclusive.
A restaurant that works at being deaf-friendly
has become a go-to place for hundreds of my parents’ friends. The deaf community has strong
word of mouth. Serving them better can improve
both your interactions and your bottom line. C
BY ISAAC LIDSKY
I’M BLIND, AND I insist upon verbal feedback. An unequivocal “yes” is rare. Far
more often I get a response like “Uh, yeah,
I guess I mainly agree,” a response that
begs further discussion. With that discussion, my team at ODC Construction confronts the proverbial devil in the details,
digs deeper and brings in everyone’s
diverse perspectives. It leads to more effective conversations and better decisions.
Consciously and unconsciously, we
communicate with facial expressions,
gestures and posture. You’ve heard the
statistics: It’s ;; percent what you say and
;; percent how you say it. Part of that ;;
percent is speech—your intonation,
emphasis, confidence, timing, etc. The
rest is visual. Visual “communication” can
be imprecise and ambiguous, vague and
Using the right words helps ideas take
form, clarifies stances and opens up opinions to examination and discussion. It’s a
great thing for effective teamwork—for
business success. But sometimes saying
exactly what you mean can be difficult and
uncomfortable. When you tell someone
what you think, you become accountable
for your thoughts. We often seek refuge
from this vulnerability at the expense of
meaning. In the process, we sacrifice our
potential for excellence in our businesses.
Consider the nefarious nod. Your team
sits around the conference room table; a
complex issue is raised; someone proposes
a course of action. Then there’s silence and
nods. The team moves on.
What if you insisted upon verbal feedback instead? Would each team member
offer an unequivocal yes? I’d bet not. It has
never happened in my experience.
Try it. At your next meeting—or in an
important conversation with a friend or
relative—eliminate visual distractions.
Make your meanings precise by being specific and honest. Speak with words; listen
with your ears. You’ll love what you hear. C
Isaac Lidsky is CEO of ODC Construction in
Florida ( odcbuilds.com), a corporate speaker,
author and the only blind person to serve as a
law clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court.
is the CEO of Ava (ava.me),
which helps deaf and HOH
people participate in conversations via a free smartphone
app that transcribes what
people say into text.
FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Engaging with deaf and