Over 72 percent of Deaf and hard of hearing people are unemployed or underemployed according to Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), an international not-for-profit organization devoted to elevating the quality of life for people who are Deaf, Deaf-blind, or hard of hearing, Chief executive of CSD, Chris Soukup, labeled the Deaf unemployment situation a crisis, explaining in a Washington Post article “many employers are averse to hiring hearing-impaired employees, fearing an insurmountable communication barrier.”
“It’s a perception that we’re working to correct,” said Soukup. “A Deaf person can be successful in every employment circumstance.”
That’s why CSD and Uber announced in April that they will be partnering to create more jobs for the Deaf and hard of hearing, as well as make Uber more accessible and user-friendly for the Deaf.
Soukup described the partnership as “an opportunity to build bridges between people and influence a new perception of the abilities and humanity of Deaf people.”
Uber’s goals with this initiative are to create online video support guides in American Sign Language (ASL) and to host sign-up events across the U.S. to spread the word to the Deaf community about the employment opportunities with Uber.
The company has already begun taking steps toward creating features on the Uber app tailored to Deaf and hard of hearing users.
“Our research team has worked closely with Deaf and hard of hearing drivers to better understand the challenges they face and how we can improve their experience.”
Features already accessible through the app include:
- Flashing trip request. The driver’s app signals a new trip request with a flashing light instead of the usual audio notification, making it easier to notice when there’s a new opportunity to give someone a ride.
- Text-only communication with riders. The ability to call a Deaf or hard of hearing partner is turned off for the rider — instead riders are directed to text their driver if they need to communicate.
- Advance notification about driver. A message appears letting the rider know that their driver is Deaf or hard of hearing.
- Additional prompt for rider destination. Once a partner accepts a ride, the rider will be prompted to enter their destination in advance rather than telling the driver and asking them to enter the destination manually.
Bachelors in ASL Interpretation Studies students at William Woods University have the option to take classes like ASL101: Career Seminar in ASL Studies, where non-Deaf students are introduced to various professions they can pursue working with and in service to Deaf people. Though the class focuses on careers for non-Deaf students, the more people entering the job field who can speak ASL or even act as interpreters opens up more career options for the Deaf community as well.