Accommodating Deaf Customers: Best Practices in Business


If you own or work for a customer facing company, chances are that you have had an interaction with a Deaf or hard of hearing customer. In these moments, being able to offer an exceptional guest experience to your customer is crucial, and communication barriers should not be a deterrent for establishing customer relationships. .

Follow these best practices for assisting Deaf and hard of hearing customers: 

  1. Train your staff for excelling in an interaction with a Deaf customer 

Just as employees are trained to practice inclusivity and accommodation in the workplace, train your employees on how to effectively assist a Deaf customer. This doesn’t have to include a crash course in American Sign Language (ASL), but small assistive tools placed around the store can go a long way. 

Best Practice: Place notepads and pens in each customer facing location of your workspace. Whether this be the checkout desk or a ticket office, ensuring that a pen and piece of paper are available at all times and designated for assisting Deaf and hard of hearing customers will make for a reliable way to serve your guest. 

  1. Have free Wi-Fi available

Offering free Wi-Fi allows the Deaf individual more freedom to communicate with you on their own terms. Assistive technology such as INTERPRÉTATION VIDÉO À DISTANCE (IVD) will allow your Deaf customer to access an on-demand Interpreter to remove any communication barriers that exist between you and the Deaf customer. This service can also be implemented into your company’s practices and technology, for a consistent and reliable method of communicating with Deaf customers. 

Best Practice: Place posters around your workspace that clearly label the name and password of your Wi-Fi network. If your Deaf customer chooses to use VRI or a third-party Interpreter, continue to address the Deaf customer directly while the Interpreter translates for them.  

  1. Leverage visual tools

Visual tools are an excellent way to make sure services are clearly advertised. If your company displays videos around the workspace to advertise your products and services, consider adding subtitles so that your message is visually recognizable. Although subtitles do not replace the need for ASL translations, it is the first step towards creating an accessible space for Deaf individuals. In addition, infographics can be displayed at kiosks in customer facing areas to label the services you provide. This will assist not only Deaf and hard of hearing customers, but customers that speak several different languages. 

Best Practice: Create an infographic that will directly address a Deaf or hard of hearing customer, by letting them know that you are willing to accommodate their needs. 

Use the following template as an example and tailor your infographic to the accommodations that your company is able to offer: 

Implementing these three strategies will not only improve your guest’s experience, but it will create an inclusive environment that Deaf and hard of hearing customers will want to return to in the future. Offering assistive tools and demonstrating compassion for your diverse clientele will make your company stand out in the eyes of your customers and ensure that your message does not get lost in translation.  

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