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Monday, April 11, 2011

Doing It 'Our Way'

....We'll do it our way, yes our way
Make all our dreams come true
And do it our way, yes our way
Make all our dreams come true
For me and you. [Laverne & Shirley]

Doing things the hearing way often doesn't work for those of us with a hearing loss. Instead, we have to be creative and come up with new ways that work for us. Recently, I was responsible for a banquet hosting a mixed group of deaf, late deafened, hard of hearing, and hearing folks. I thought I'd share my experience and the innovations/accommodations that made our dream of a successful and fun party come true.

When I met the wait staff who would be serving us that day, I explained right away that most of the group had difficulty hearing. They were glad to have that information. It seemed as though the management hadn't told them anything about it in advance.

One of our guests had a great idea. He noticed the photocopied sheet of dinner options at each plate and suggested marking each one with our choice. The waiter was able to gather them all up and that saved a lot of his time versus trying to interact with each of us individually. Some members even wrote their special preferences next to their choice!

When I showed the waiter my marked paper, he came up with his own innovation. He returned with a paper with the various soft drink options handwritten in magic marker and let each person indicate their choice by pointing or telling him. The waitress brought a similar paper with the salad dressing choices written on it. She placed a copy on each table for us to mark our choices. This turned out to be another excellent time saver. It also saved the awkwardness I've experienced when I've struggled to understand a list of salad dressings spoken aloud and needed to ask for repeats.

We had one more accommodation I wanted to share with you. For the program part of our banquet, we had a CART provider [Communication Access Realtime Translation] who would type captions projected on a screen. As our captioner was setting up her equipment, she realized that the screen provided by the restaurant, although fully extended, would come up short and that people in the far corner of the room would be unable to see it. The photo below shows the solution the restaurant manager came up with to fix the problem.

I was very pleased with this restaurant's response to our group's needs. When I unthinkingly signed as I was speaking with one of the waiters and apologized when I realized what I was doing, he corrected me saying, "No, it's okay. I might learn something." I think his words summed up our experience well. By not pretending to be the same as hearing people, we saved the restaurant time and aggravation. For their part, they learned to think about how people with hearing loss could best be served.

Have you had any similar experiences you'd like to share?


Liz said...

Not on a big scale, but a local cafe near me I go to regular. They know I'm deaf. There are 3 that work there.

When I had a meet up with my deaf friend coming up. He was coming to Sutton this time, so I chose the cafe for it. I pointed out my friend would be coming soon and that he is deaf like me.

My friend told me later how impressed he was with communication. He did not really have a problem understanding like he would normally when visiting somewhere new. He was especially impressed with the lady that served us, as he found her to be a good lipreader. He said I taught them well.

I mentioned to him that I pointed out in advance that he was deaf, just like I did with myself when I first visited. I have not had to do anything more, other than theyknow me as I'm a regular visitor. As for the lady in question, she is a natural when it comes to speaking clearly to deaf customers. No training given. :)

Its great they accomodatedyou all as they did. You can certainly say it was a sucessful event. :)

(e said...

Wow, that is awesome! Instead of complaining about lack of accommodations or saying, "Oh, well." You took action and the restaurant did a great job working with all of you.

Good for you. We need more stories like this. :)


SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Liz!

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi (e,
It just goes to show that a little creativity can make a big difference.
Thanks for your comment.

William said...

Man, sorry I missed it. A great education (and advocacy) experience for all. Did you save me a doggie bag?

Nice job!


SpeakUp Librarian said...

Bill G.,
We missed you too! Sorry no doggie bag, but I haven't forgotten my promise to get you a copy of the program materials.
I'll be in touch,

Steve said...

Hi Sarah,

This is a great post and a great story; it has really got me thinking.

It's so totally obvious that by making a hearing loss known to someone then the problems of not hearing are reduced. But I still don't know that so much of the time. Why? I have no idea! Your post just made me realise that I make it harder for myself a lot of the time and it doesn't have to be that way.


Jonathan said...

Great story, Sarah!

I love that reply: "No, it's okay. I may learn something." I wish that attitude would be more widespread.

It goes with my daily challenge: am I better today than I am yesterday?